It’s been a fabulous year for New Zealand apple growers who are now harvesting the first Galas of the new season.
Overall, weather has done well for the main apple growing regions in New Zealand. The South Island growing regions that typically receive hail managed to escape those conditions during peak growing periods. North Island regions did get hit with one significant hailstorm in the early stage of flowering when apples were not yet developed. However, the impacts of this storm are seen in off-shape apples that will be clear to identify on the packing line and will not impact overall shipment quality.
It’s been mild and cool, for the most part in all regions, which allows for fruit to pick up exceptional color in the early growing stages. Temperatures have warmed in early February, with highs in the range of 25-29 degrees Celsius. These warmer temperatures helped the apples develop better sugars in time for harvest, and these conditions have led to an advantageous color and quality of New Zealand apples. In addition, the New Zealand apple industry is expected to grow larger apples and larger quantities this season to achieve a crop estimate of 22.9mm cartons. With apples peaking on larger sizes we would anticipate this increase to be around 10-15%.
There is a slight concern about the sizing of the Gala variety being too large and impacting the ordinarily smaller fruit supply preferred by the Asian markets, and of course the larger sizing of these apples will have an impact on bin yields. As a result, growers continue to pull out Pears, Braeburns, and New Zealand Rose varieties with a focus on planting more varieties that will be identified by better color, crunch, and sugars, all of which are preferred by Asian and other global markets.
With a promising harvest ahead, the only concern left to bear is over the state of markets to receive shipments of New Zealand apples. Challenges persist in the face of shipping backlogs resulting from the holiday season, and from the effects of the Coronavirus. These are hurdles an ever-resilient industry will overcome in the coming months.