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New Zealand’s apple and pear crop for 2022 is predicted to reach 601,000 tonnes, closely in line with long term forecasting, but there are many barriers to overcome.

Assuming fruit is able to be picked and packed, export volume could be slightly higher than 2020 levels, which dropped following the disastrous Boxing Day hail event in the Nelson region. However, the lingering question on growers’ minds across the country is how much of the 2022 crop will get picked as the Omicron storm clouds gather. In any normal year, the crop estimate is based on the potential volume and assumes a normal growing season without adverse weather events or menacing labour and supply chain issues. 

Unfortunately, 2022 will not be a normal year. 

With a potential 23.2 million 18kg boxes destined for customers in more than 80 countries, a very good growing season so far has provided increased sized fruit with high sunshine and warmth giving fruit size, colour, and crispness. Quality is particularly important as the industry continues to move to apple and pear varieties that it has developed within its own Prevar research programme. The variety mix continues to diversify as traditionally grown varieties such as Braeburn and Royal Gala decline in volume and New Zealand owned Dazzle, Envy, Piqa-Boo, and Rockit increase.  

New Zealand Apples and Pears (NZAPI) chief executive Terry Meikle (pictured) says however, the increased crop volume and quality must be tempered by the fact that Omicron has now firmly established itself in New Zealand. “It will be vital that a pragmatic approach is taken by government to set clear and consistent rules that allow workers to pick, pack and ship the harvest.

“These challenges are compounded by the arrival of Omicron in Tonga and Samoa, coupled with the ongoing disaster recovery effort in Tonga. We are working hard with the New Zealand and Pacific governments, Air New Zealand, our employers and of course our Tongan workers, to return home those in need and bring back those who are ready to return. 

“The economic recovery of the Pacific and the success of the New Zealand apple and pear sector are linked. Our horticulture industries are the largest non-government employers of workers from Pacific countries. Remittances will play a huge part in helping the Pacific, particularly Tonga as it recovers from the eruption and tsunami.” 

While many growers are resigned to the fact this will be one of their most challenging years, Meikle remains optimistic that growers will dig deep to navigate the complexities of the operating environment and harvest a great crop. “As always, our growers are focusing on quality first and ensuring a great eating experience for their customers. In terms of labour supply and impacts of Omicron, most growers are planning for the worst and hoping for the best.”

Meikle adds that while NZAPI fully supports the announcement of New Zealand’s five stage border re-opening, it is “too little, too late” for the 2022 apple harvest, it is the proposed Prime Minister-led trade missions to Australia, the EU, Asia and North America will provide the opportunity to attract working holiday visas workers back to our shores in time for the start of the 2023 fruit harvest, while also pushing for improved market access outcomes into key countries.


Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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