Getting the pip: Perfect storm of weather and labour shortages impacts apple and pear producers

by | May 20, 2022 | News

New Zealand Apples and Pears (NZAPI), the industry organisation representing the country’s pipfruit growers, today released a crop re-forecast that will see this apple and pear season suffer an estimated drop of 12% on the pre-season estimate.

In January this year, the 2022 apple and pear crop was predicted to reach the equivalent of 23.2 million export boxes (Tray Carton Equivalents, or TCEs, as they’re known in the industry), destined for customers in more than 80 countries. That forecast has now been adjusted to be approximately 20.3 million boxes, representing an estimated reduction in export earnings of $105 million.

NZAPI CEO Terry Meikle says a perfect storm of adverse weather events in key growing regions and major labour shortages during the heart of the harvest combined to result in growers not being able maximise their crops.

“While our crop may be down by around 12% on initial estimates, it is a testament to the resilience and capability of our grower community that we are still likely to make the most from such an incredibly challenging harvest.

“Growers have not had the surety of labour to do everything they normally would to maximise their crops. Labour shortages were further exacerbated by the impacts of the pandemic affecting key regions at critical moments during the harvest and the backpacker workforce not being available. In this environment, maximising the crop volumes was simply not possible,” says Meikle.

The major apple growing region of Hawke’s Bay is expected to be 15% down on the January estimate, and its East Coast neighbour, Gisborne, fared the worst of the regions, down 20%, with both having experienced major adverse weather events. Gisborne had over 530mm of rainfall during the season in multiple events, while Hawke’s Bay had 321mm, with Meikle saying it has been “an incredibly difficult time for growers to manage their orchards”.

In Nelson, the growing season has been regarded as good, with the projected 7% decrease in the number of cartons produced being attributed to trees that were decimated by the hailstorms in the 2021 season not producing a crop this year. While the weather gods were notably better for growing apples in the South Island, port logistics and shipping disruptions and lack of containers have all impacted particularly heavily in the Nelson region.

Meikle adds: “Unfortunately, the ongoing disruptions in the global supply chain network and a global inflationary environment appear set to continue to create headwinds for our industry in the coming months. While undoubtedly this has been the most challenging of harvests in recent years, the resilience of our grower community to produce quality fruit that gives our overseas and domestic customers a great eating experience is admirable.”

Source: New Zealand Apples and Pears

NZ Apples & Pears Inc. is 100% owned by New Zealand pipfruit growers.

Image credit: 44 Degrees North on Unsplash

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