New Zealand is preparing for another record apple season, with predictions of increased yields, high quality fruit and growing market demand.
Mr Apple Production Manager Robert Sykes says good weather in the Hawkes Bay region has made for strong growing conditions that promise a great harvest in a few weeks time.
“We came off a good volume last year, and it’s public knowledge now that the New Zealand industry is on target for another very good yield. We had some weather events in Nelson [that affected growers there], but we’ve been fortunate on the North Island so far,” he says.
“We’ve had great growing conditions and the apples are sizing well and starting to colour, so we’re eagerly awaiting harvest at the back end of the month.”
Mr Apple grows 13 different varieties throughout the season, with a major focus on high red colour varieties.
“We’ll start harvesting with NZ Beauty then go into Royal Gala. We’ve got a big crop of Royal Gala coming through and it’s exciting because the quality is looking great. I’d say it’s the best I’ve ever seen – and my family’s been growing apples since 1920,” he says.
“We’re looking at an increased crop this year. We had a record crop last year, where we exported over 4 million cartons and I’d expect the same or more this year.”
Mr Apple currently supplies apples around 60 countries directly and indirectly around the world and controls 25% of New Zealand’s total commercial apple crop. It’s also the country’s largest vertically integrated apple grower, packer, shipper and exporter.
“We’re seeing increased demand in every market,” Mr Sykes says. “Particularly with our increased focus on markets in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. China also has growing demand, but really we’re seeing it everywhere.”
Industry body Pipfruit New Zealand has also predicted increasing demand for New Zealand apples in 2016, with a pre-season forecast that export cartons will reach 19.5 million – up 5.5% on figures from 2015.
Mr Sykes says Mr Apple is performing strongly as a supplier of high quality apples globally, and improving demand is “coming out of the ability to consistently supply high quality apples that meet our customers requirements.”
“Our motto is “it’s all about apple”, so we let our apples do the talking. Our customers are buying on flavour and quality, and that’s our point of differentiation from others.”
He says the strength of the market also highlights a strengthening of the industry as a whole.
“A few years ago the pipfruit category was seen as stagnating, but that’s not the case now. Apples are experiencing a renaissance.”