2020 has been a season of two halves, with a reliance on the entire supply chain to step up and work collaboratively to get the sector through a record harvest and a global pandemic. With a forecast of 22.7 million TCE’s (up 3% on 2019) of high quality fruit, the added pressure of managing harvest and post-harvest logistics provided a few new challenges that even the most seasoned grower would not have come up against before. Strict social distancing measures and reduced staff numbers, created some interesting innovative solutions and pushed packhouse storage capacity to its limits.
As of 30 June, the apple and pear sector is sitting at 73% exported against forecast, down from 2019 (80% shipped to same ISO week) and whilst the final export total may come in short of the original forecast, the 2020 season has fared well given the extraordinary global circumstances.
Diversity of market and varietal mix has been a real silver-lining for this season’s crop. Markets that New Zealand have historically relied on have posed challenges this year due to Covid-19. Challenges include processing delays at international ports, coolstorage capacity rapidly becoming full and wholesale markets being effectively shut. On the flip side, this seasons Braeburn has shown surprising demand in the EU, Russia is taking significantly higher volumes (up 120% on 2019) and Asian markets are picking up as restrictions lessen and cancelled festivals are rescheduled.
2020 would not have been the season it was if it wasn’t for the huge effort of orchardists and packhouses to keep operating within social distancing guidelines, the diverse mix of varieties and markets, the high quality of fruit grown and packed, and New Zealand’s reputation for providing high quality, safe and healthy produce.
Although the impact of Covid 19 may influence fruit sales later in the year, at this stage both Green and Gold kiwifruit is selling well and growers are looking forward to healthy tray returns this season as Zespri settle into their marketing programme. Kiwifruit remains a popular choice for overseas consumers looking for foods high in Vitamin C.
Zespri is currently consulting with industry representative bodies to agree revised Kiwistart rates (incentive payments for early fruit) for the 2020 season. Close to 60% of the Gold3 crop in Hawke’s Bay was harvested in the early ‘Kiwistart’ window so the outcome of this consultation is important to growers the Hawke’s Bay region.
The kiwifruit industry has embarked on a significant project to re-design the way in which pre-harvest maturity testing is carried out including the collection of fruit samples on orchard and testing of fruit in the laboratory. This is a very large project that involves multiple stakeholders and it is likely that interim measures will be put in place to get through the 2021 harvest before a new model is fully functional in 2022. Hawke’s Bay growers are hoping that both fruit sampling and laboratory testing services will continue to be carried out by local service providers, as has been the case previously.
Another industry review is underway which aims to simplify the processes employed to assess fruit dry matter content and calculate the associated grower payments known as ‘Taste’ payments. This is another significant project that will require extensive consultation between Zespri, postharvest businesses and growers.
In the orchard, winter pruning continues with some growers playing catch-up after a wet June delayed progress. Autumn has passed with only isolated incidents of new Psa infection (vine canker) reported to date. This is great news for growers that have suffered higher levels of infection in the past.
The summer fruit spraying season has begun in early varieties, such as the Mayglo nectarines. This is almost three weeks earlier than last year- currently between 5-10% bloom. The early chill units in early May, followed by a substanital amount of rain in June, has contributed to early bud movement. This however does not translate to an early season!
Pruning should be nearly finished on most blocks. Coppers and oils should be applied on pre- Christmas fruit within the next couple of weeks.
A reminder of the SummerfruitNZ AGM to be held on the 15th July. If you intend to attend in person or viz zoom, please register by the 13th July via SummerfruitNZ AGM Registration