"A number of factors": NZ apple exports forecast lower despite earlier optimism

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The USDA has forecast that New Zealand's apple exports will end up around 14 percent down year-on-year despite earlier expectations of a near-record season.

It said that "a number of factors have tempered expectations", with production is now estimated to have slumped 8 percent from the previous year to 543,000 metric tons (MT).

Two of these factors have been hailstorms causing widespread damage in key apple areas, as well as generally smaller-sized apples this year due to a cooler

In addition to reduced production, the impact on exports is being exacerbated by severe staffing shortages during the harvest. New Zealand's Covid-19 response included limiting slots available for short-term foreign workers in mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival, and international border closures.

Because of these shortages, orchardists were not able to do the number of harvest picks in each orchard block necessary to maximize the proportion of export quality fruit. Consequently, while all the apples are still expected to eventually be harvested there will be a greater volume destined for processing.

This is expected to reduce exports by 14 percent from 2020, down to 345,000MT in 2021, the USDA report said.

The volume of apples being processed in 2020/2021 is estimated to increase by seven percent to reach 125,000MT. 

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