Thursday, 11 April 2024 08:25

Mixed season for summerfruit

Written by  Nigel Malthus
Summerfruit NZ chief executive Kate Hellstrom says while growers will be pleased in general, there have still been some challenges during the season. Summerfruit NZ chief executive Kate Hellstrom says while growers will be pleased in general, there have still been some challenges during the season.

It has been another mixed season for the country's summerfruit growers.

Summerfruit NZ chief executive Kate Hellstrom told Hort News that while growers will be pleased in general, there have still been some challenges during the season.

"We've had smaller fruit than some other seasons and possibly that is due to pre-season weather conditions."

Hellstrom says that high winds late last year affected Central Otago growers, while Hawke's Bay growers were still recovering from Cyclone Gabrielle - "as you would expect".

While some Hawke's Bay growers were pleasantly surprised with the way their orchards had bounced back, others were struggling. Some had left the industry and others were "considering their options".

The recovery was an ongoing issue for the sector. Hellstrom says the "great thing" for the season is that fruit quality was on the whole very good.

"The feedback has been very good around the quality, the taste, those high sugar levels - really nice fruit for consumers."

On the export side, she says cherry exports were back up to 2017 levels, at 3800 tonnes.

Freight wasn't the issue that it had been through the Covid period.

"With the tourists returning to New Zealand that's a double bonus for the sector," Hellstrom adds.

"On one side, we've got more passenger flights returning to the country so there's more freight options for our exporters. And on the other side, we've got plenty of backpackers, including of course New Zealanders, who have been available to pick the fruit here."

Meanwhile, Hellstrom believes the new apricot varieties [the NZSummer series] that are coming on stream - which have been spoken about quite a bit during the summer - have consumers really interested in getting hold of them.

She says fruit flavour is good and there was a lot of potential for the varieties as growers develop the best technique to grow, harvest and handle them.

Summerfruit NZ also ran a social media campaign this season to promote summer fruit to specific, mostly urban, demographics, which Hellstrom believes had been very successful.

"We feel that this has been a really good season for the consumer."

Meanwhile, Hellstrom says there are a lot of new plantings happening in both Central Otago and Hawke's Bay, but also in other regions where marginal farmland has been recognised as providing the right temperature, climate and growing conditions for summer fruit.

"We're excited about the opportunities for the future. There's plenty of demand both in the domestic market and overseas for great tasting summer fruits."

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