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New Zealand apple harvest was well under way with some growers already picking the earliest variety Sunrise and NZ Beauty starting this week, according to the Gisborne Herald.

The paper quoted Manutuke apple grower Wayne Hall saying: “This variety is stunning provided it is harvested at optimum maturity. The season in Gisborne is about seven to 10 days later than last year.”

Hall who is also the operations manager for Wi Pere Trust Citrus said normally picking starts in late January. “We have a reliable team of experienced staff who have done the harvesting for the last six years. They are skilled at select picking for colour and maturity.”

In early December white reflective mulch was laid under the trees to help advance maturity and give a more even fruit colour.

“It increases the amount of sunlight intercepted by the trees and we can pick the lower fruit earlier.”

The few cooler nights in late January have also helped fruit colour.

Trees planted in 2004 were grafted on M26 a semi- dwarfing rootstock, which is helping to contain the tree vigour and give the fruit good exposure to light.

The rain in December and January had helped the size but the intense heat — often four to five degrees hotter in parts of the orchard, compared to the daily recorded high — had left about 2 to 3 percent of the fruit with severe sun burn, said Hall.

“Overall we have had an excellent growing season for apples and the crop is particularly clean which should give good results at the packhouse. We hope to pick about 100 tonnes off the two hectare block.”

Kaiaponi Farms general manager Scott Wilson said the first of the new seasons apples were packed this week and fruit is being delivered to the markets on a daily basis.

“There is a strong demand for the fruit. The cool nights and warm sunny days have produced both good colour and great eating fruit.”

Chief executive for Pipfruit NZ Peter Bevan said the estimate total crop for 2012 is 16.6 million cartons which is unusually similar to last season, biennial bearing normally results in significant production swings from year to year.

He said while Royal Gala and Braeburn varieties still make up 55 percent of the expected volume, Jazz is expected to top two million cartons for the first time and will now make up 12 percent of the volume. Other large contributors are Fuji which makes up 1.7 million cartons, the Pacific series 1.1 million and Pink Lady, 830,000 cartons.

Braeburn production has now shrunk by 24 percent to 3.3 million, the lowest production in 20 years as growers remove this uneconomic variety.

Bevan said while the European Union, Asia and the Middle East are the largest markets for NZ apples, there are 10 pack houses expected to be able to pass the stringent audits required to supply the Australian market this year. Source: Gisborn Herald

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