There were fears New Zealand’s smaller sized fruit – hovering around the 120 size for Galas and Braeburns – would be a setback for exports as American consumers generally prefer sizes around the 90s mark.
Oppenheimer apple and pear category director David Nelley, said imports got off to a strong start with customers keen to switch from old domestic stored fruit to fresh imports.
“Galas started things off well and it continued. Jazz apples have really taken off, we are seeing prices US$10 per carton (18 kilograms) up on last year and this is purely down to demand.”
He said overall prices for New Zealand apples were up on average by 28% compared with the previous year and new apple cultivars had helped boost sales.
“A lot of new varieties are coming out of New Zealand such as Divine, Temptation, Smitten and Envy apples which are really giving consumers a lot more flavor during the summer months.
“All the retailers I have spoken to have reported that apple sales were up during the summer months despite reduced supplies.”
Oppenheimer imported more Smittens and Temptations with the latter selling out quickly. The bi-colored Divine variety, which the company is currently importing on an introductory basis, sold out almost immediately.
Nelley said that the company had increased the number of New Zealand growers that it sources from which includes the Nelson-based Harland Group of growers.
Although, imports were generally viewed as good quality, U.S. importer Bengard Marketing’s apple sales manager Steve Pearson, said there had been some issues with Braeburns.
“Braeburns had a bit of a problem with bitter pit so we ended up repacking some of them so the prices were a bit lower than Fujis and Galas, about US$2-4 less a carton.”
However, Pearson said in general New Zealand’s apples were of a “consistent” quality describing the season as very good for the country.
Giumarra’s apples and kiwifruit manager Jason Bushong said New Zealand’s apples commanded good prices because domestic supply “cleared out” quickly.
Washington State’s hail storms in July reduced volumes of what was scheduled to be a bumper U.S. crop.
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