New Zealand further cuts apple export forecast due to labor shortages

New Zealand further cuts apple export forecast due to labor shortages

The New Zealand apple and pear industry is expecting a 14 percent drop in exports from 2020 due to labor shortages, according to the NZ Herald.

Reportedly,  this decline will represent a decrease of between NZ$95 and NZ$100 million in export earnings.

In January, forecasts placed expectations for the gross national crop at 558,672 tonnes (MT) and exports at 374,751MT. These numbers represented a five and seven percent drop respectively from the previous year. 

Now, however, industry association NZ Apples and Pears Inc (NZAPI), expressed certainty that these amounts would not be met. 

"As we near peak harvest, it has become increasingly clear that we will not achieve those initial forecasts," NZAPI chief executive Alan Pollard was quoted by the Herald as saying.

"Labour availability on orchards and in our post-harvest operations is well short of numbers needed by the industry despite doing all we can to attract New Zealanders into work.”

He also reportedly said that fruit size is also looking smaller on average than was expected. 

According to the NZ Herald, the updated forecasts place exports at around 347,718MT or 19.3 million cartons - 3 million cartons less than 2020.

The most affected apple varieties are listed as Braeburn with a 44 percent drop, followed by Fuji, Cripps Pink, and Royal Gala.

However, other varieties, such as Honeycrisp, are continuing to show strong growth. 

"While the size profile is smaller than we expected, putting premium sizes into short supply, quality remains very good, and the fruit is well colored,"  Pollard was quoted as saying.

"Demand is strong in our key markets, but we remain concerned about continuing disruption to international shipping schedules and port congestion."