Several significant rain events hampered picking early in the kiwifruit season but the harvest is on track to meet its export targets, says New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc CEO Nikki Johnson.
“The industry has been spoilt with some very good weather during recent harvests, but we certainly didn’t get that this time. However, by mid-May 86 per cent of the gold crop was picked along with about one-quarter of the green fruit.”
Significant rain early in the season got things off to a slower than ideal start and there were some concerns about soft fruit and fruit size, but this didn’t prove to be a major problem, says Nikki.
“We are a primary industry, and have to work with what the weather provides us. While some individual growers may not have been able to meet dry matter levels, the majority have. It must be remembered that the quality standards are there to ensure customers get what they want in our kiwifruit and will make repeat purchases.”
Nikki says quality standards can’t be changed in a tougher year. “As an industry we need to provide consistent quality and size of fruit to ensure consumers don’t have a bad experience. It can be hard on individual growers but we must take the long-term view for the benefit of our industry.
“As we do every year, once the harvest is over NZKGI will be reviewing how the season went and looking at any issues which arose.”
Most of the Eastern Bay of Plenty growers hit by flooding caused by ex-cyclones Debbie and Cook were able to harvest their fruit but Nikki says the concern for them now is how badly vines have been affected from having their roots under water.
“This will be a worry for those growers, but some are growing kiwifruit in marginal areas and as there is no insurance for fruit damage, they may have to reassess their orchard’s future.”
Nikki says NZKGI is looking into preparing guidelines for growers around the risks associated with growing kiwifruit to help them make informed decisions about existing or potential new orchards.
The slow start to the harvest did create some initial issues for contractors employing backpackers, as it was hard to retain them when work was not available.
Nikki believes there are currently no significant staff shortages, with the Recognised Seasonal Employer workers and Kiwis filling harvest and post-harvest roles. “However, the green harvest is only just winding up so that may create a need for more staff.”