7 Jul 2020

Aim for smaller crops with larger fruit, growers told

8:09 pm on 7 July 2020

Summerfruit growers are being advised to focus on quality over quantity this season, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Photo: AFP / 123RF

New Zealand exports cherries, peaches, nectarines and apricots to 19 countries around the world, but the sector is concerned a lack of labour and air freight due to Covid-19 could result in fruit being left unpicked, or it being stuck in New Zealand, flooding the domestic market.

A paper published by industry group Summerfruit NZ said the impact Covid-19 was expected to have on on labour and logistics in the upcoming season meant orchardists should consider growing "fewer and bigger" fruit.

The organisation's acting chief executive, Richard Palmer, said the sector had got most of last season's fruit to market by the time Covid-19 started causing significant disruptions. He said planning for the upcoming season was necessary to make sure the industry was prepared.

"The primary sector will play a massive part in New Zealand's post-Covid recovery and summer fruit exports are a part of that," he said.

Palmer said by growing fewer and bigger fruit, it would allow a high quality crop to get into key markets quicker and differentiate New Zealand's exports from overseas competitors.

He said the key for growers would be to intensively manage this season's crop. This included setting fruit trees up correctly, with not too many buds on them as well as getting pest and disease control right.

"There may be some tough decisions in the packhouse as well."

Mike Russell from Russell Plums in the Hawkes Bay said that orchardists were adaptable and would have to grow what the market wanted.

"If the market wants a small volume of fruit and a bigger sized crop, well, that's what we will grow them," he said.

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