New Zealand's largest apple exporter T&G Global is beginning its apple season, with hundreds of orchard workers descending on the farms of Hawke’s Bay, Nelson and Otago.
The company said that its own volumes would be up on last year, reaching around 7 million cartons.
T&G's production increase comes amid what is set to be another industry-wide bumper crop in New Zealand - expected to be more than 22 million cartons - on the back of a growth strategy which will see the country hit one billion dollars in export sales by 2020.
"Our apples are looking good in terms of colour, texture, eating quality and flavour, and due to New Zealand’s superior breeding programmes, our world leading growing systems and post-harvest technology, it means only the highest quality fruit enters the market,” says Peter Landon-Lane, chief operating officer.
Around 95% of the crop will be picked and packed for international markets, where T&G said premium prices were paid for its flagship apples JAZZ and Envy.
JAZZ apples were first born in the leafy orchards following a natural union of Royal Gala and Braeburn varieties. Almost two decades on they are sold in 60 countries and grown in 10.
Traditionally, most of T&G's apples were being sold into the U.K. and U.S., but that is changing as Asia and the Middle East emerge as key markets, making up half of exports.
Landon-Lane says while spring threw some challenges for growers in Hawke’s Bay, delivering wet weather, warm summer temperatures moderated by the recent cooler nights have meant good fruit size and high-quality fruit.
Meanwhile in Nelson, a wet winter was followed by good pollination conditions in spring. However, since the new year, there has been very little rainfall meaning an earlier harvest start date in the region.
Otago weather has been favorable for apple growing with a good crop expected despite a few pockets of hail which caused some damage during the Christmas and New Year period.
“The harvest is in full swing this month including several orchards we have invested in over the last few years to ensure we will continue to meet global demand for our apples,” Landon-Lane says.