Richard Mills, Summerfruit NZ Market Support
At the time of writing we are six weeks from the start of harvest, and by the time you are reading this maybe only a month until the first peach, nectarine and apricots roll out of Bay View and the warmer growing pockets.
Looking at the degree growing days we are about 30 units ahead of last season (1 September to 11 October) and this is being reflected in Marlborough and Central Otago as well – at this stage the season is not late. Yet, the sheep, beef and dairy farmers around here are only just holding their own with grass growth. If you look up at Mt Erin the north facing slopes have turned brown already. So, as we reflected last time, keep an eye on soil moisture levels.
Summerfruit bloom was generally strong, and short in duration and some chemical thinning was carried out, so I would have expected a good solid fruit set. Combine this, with what would seem adequate winter chilling, and big sets would have been anticipated, but this is not always the case. I have seen a few blocks where hand thinning is a “maybe yes, maybe no, can I tolerate a few bunches” question. To be fair, this is more often in apricot and some plums although I have picked up a report of cherry in part being quite poor. Maybe we are seeing a bit of effect from drought stressed trees from the end of last season and maybe a bit much wind for bees at a critical time. A mixed bag, but generally enough fruit at this point. Fruit size is looking good with the lower sets and good temperatures.
A few aphids are about and reports of them appearing where they were not only two days ago. Keep monitoring please.
It’s is interesting to reflect that this time last year we were dealing with the fall-out of a very significant hail storm or two. This year we are wondering what the labour supply will be. Everyone that I have talked to seems to think that they will be OK for thinning and into the early part of the harvest and yet I see the ‘pickers wanted’ signs out already. I guess this sort of mixed messaging is indicative of a scenario that we have not encountered before and working in a space of incomplete information.
I asked the same question of the Central Otago growers a couple of weeks ago and got a similar answer. We have enough pickers on the books but when the industry adds up the number of potential workers there is a different story. Do go to the Work The Seasons website and register your interest www.worktheseasons.co.nz The real pressure will come on once apple thinning kicks in, as it does for apples when the kiwifruit harvest starts.
Still, we should be wary. The hospitality industry, which relies on backpackers is experiencing much better than normal occupancy rates and is having trouble attracting staff and especially quality staff. We do play in the same part of the labour market.
Summerfruit NZ in conjunction with the Agchem merchants, are offering a free one-year subscription to the HortPlus electronic spray diary – SprayLog. Please note that SprayLog will not generate an export clearance and therefore only suitable for fruit for sale in New Zealand. If you are interested please contact Richard Mills directly on 021 632559 or email firstname.lastname@example.org