Harvest for 2020 is now at an end, with crops all been picked and in the process of being packed.
This season would have to go down in the history books, as one of the most interesting and challenging with COVID-19 thrown in the mix.
It was good to see, as an industry, we acted quickly and implemented the requirements set by Government in our respective workplaces, to keep everyone safe in their working bubbles to comply with the “new normal”. As we slowly climb out over the other side of COVID-19, Mother Nature is still testing our stress levels with no real rain in sight and drought levels at an all time, high.
Growers will be monitoring soil moistures and trying to give the trees enough water to get them through. Post-Harvest clean ups will be on the agenda on orchard and turning our attention to the next task ahead, pruning.
Kiwifruit harvest in the Hawkes Bay is nearing completion with just a few Green blocks still to be picked. Overall, Gold3 crops in the Hawkes Bay have been under estimate, partly due to the drought and partly due to lower flower numbers in spring last year. Gold3 fruit quality has been good and Zespri are looking forward to a ‘vintage taste year’.
Many Green kiwifruit blocks have produced lower yields than last season due to poor pollination and/or challenging conditions in spring including hail (on some blocks) and Psa infection during flowering. Fruit size on many blocks was impacted by poor pollination and the dry summer conditions. Feedback from the markets still suggests that Gold3 crop will sell well and shipping has continued to run to schedule. It is too early to report on how well the Green crop will be received by markets.
Thanks to the dry conditions in Hawkes Bay and most other growing regions, fruit dry matter has been very good this season which typically results in strong sales. However, due to the failure of a third party company to deliver essential fruit testing services, Zespri has had to remove all Taste payments (which are based on fruit dry matter content) this season. As a consequence, Taste payments (known as TZG) will be averaged across all fruit pools and Kiwistart premiums (paid for early season fruit) may be significantly reduced. This is a challenging issue and Zespri have said that further review will be undertaken once Zespri understand how the markets are performing and what grower returns might look like.
As for all New Zealand, it has been a very difficult and trying time for the summerfruit industry over the past two months.
Although harvest was largely completed prior to the Level 4 lockdown, restrictions on essential services and what work could be undertaken presented many challenges for this sector. As advised by the Summerfruit NZ Board, pruning was deemed to be non-essential under Level 4 and subsequently could not be carried out.
By now, most summerfruit orchards have already applied their pre-winter coppers and hopefully catching up on a delayed winter pruning start!
There appears to be a number of summerfruit orchards being pulled out this year which may affect prices in the coming season. Happy pruning everyone and stay safe.