Blossom is out on early Stone fruit and there is some bud movement on apples and pears – spraying has begun. The 22/23 season is underway and mother nature has thrown in a couple of really good frosts to get us going. Every fruit season is different, you never get two the same, which is a relief, especially after the one we’ve just come through. So put that one behind you and look ahead to a much better one in every way.
During my recent visit to the US, I was told that the Washington State crop is very small with estimates of around 100-105 million Bushels, (this is about a third down of their average annual apple crop of around 160 million) making it the smallest they have had in years. These reduced yields are due to heavy frosts, which have had a severe impact, they’ve also experienced major return bloom issues stemming from the severe heat and drought weather they experienced last season.
Last week, I visited Central Otago to learn more about how their growers have navigated seasonal labour issues over the last couple of years. The visit was organised by MPI who are sponsoring a HB Fruitgrowers’ led project to support our local industry in this space. A similar project has been running in Central Otago for a couple of years, so we were keen to take learnings from that. The visit included meetings with a range of growers and service providers, it was clear that we share many common issues, however some key differences were also apparent. The alignment of the bulk of their harvest to the school holiday period is a clear advantage for them as this makes engaging student labour significantly more accessible. They are also much less reliant on labour contractors and much more reliant on the backpacker market. Several growers have already started dialogue with prospective working holiday visa applicants. A key message was the importance of starting recruitment efforts as early as possible.
We have our 123rd AGM coming up on the 14th of September at Toitoi. I encourage all our members to come along – hear what we’ve been up too the last year and the new initiatives planned for the coming year and beyond. This is a great way to network and catch up with our grower family.