It is still early days for any definitive forecast, but New Zealand’s national kiwifruit grower body has given a preliminary picture of how the crop might look in a few months’ time.
“A decrease was probably always going to be on the cards, but it’s probably going to a little bit bigger decrease than we thought,” says New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) chief executive Nikki Johnson.
“We’re coming off the back of a really big season last year so even if we return to a normal season it’s going to look like a decrease.
“But based on how things are operating at a flowering and fruit set level it looks like we’re looking at a 30% decrease for 2017.”
She says lower volumes varied depending on the grower concerned, but overall the impacts were more likely to be seen in green kiwifruit orchards.
“The green crop has been affected more than the gold crop, so Sun Gold is sitting quite steady really, but Sun Gold is coming into full production so that’s a changing scenario anyway,” she said.
“The growers need to focus now on working with the fruit crop that they have, and I guess in some cases it’ll mean less thinning as they don’t have as much fruit set.
“It’s about managing their crop to the best advantage they have which is obviously the combination of taste and size to get the best return for themselves.”
Kiwifruit Vine Health chief executive Barry O’Neil said there was generally a lower prevalence of vine disease Psa in the spring of 2016 compared to previous years.
O’Neil said this was surprising given what had until then been a very wet spring.
“But in early November after strong winds significant leaf spotting was observed, especially in green varieties,” he said.
“Luckily flower development was well advanced so even with high levels of leaf spotting we didn’t observe serious levels of sepal or flower infection, and most flowers went onto set fruit.
“The hot dry weather that has been present in most growing regions over December and January has meant little Psa infection is being observed.”
Korean tariff cuts
From a market perspective, New Zealand kiwifruit exports will be better placed in South Korea as tariffs continue to fall as part of the two countries’ free trade agreement.
“This is just one of a series of tariff reductions that came out of the Korean free trade agreement, so it’s not a surprise,” Johnson said.
“We knew it was coming and we know it will continue to decrease tariffs, and they’ll be phased out completely by 2020.
“So it’s gone from 30% in 2016 to 22.5% in 2017, so that is a relatively significant decrease and it will make a difference to us in that market.”
According to New Zealand Government figures, kiwifruit exports to South Korea grew by nearly 20% in 2016, and the reduced 22.5% will equate to half of what shippers were paying before the FTA.