Kiwifruit giant Zespri is forecasting exports this season will be down by 18 percent - or roughly 30 million trays - on last year, due to challenging weather conditions.
The first shipment of fruit from the 2023 harvest has just departed the Port of Tauranga, bound for Japan.
Chief global supply officer Jason Te Brake said it would deliver around 145 million trays of green, gold and red kiwifruit to more than 50 countries this year.
About 177 million trays were sold last year, but there were issues with fruit quality, denting returns to growers.
Te Brake said the drop in the 2023 crop was largely being driven by lower volumes of green fruit, with bad weather during the critical pollination period expected to reduce yeilds by 15 million trays.
Te Brake said 2022 had been challenging. It had also been a tough start to 2023, given the adverse weather events including Cyclone Gabrielle's impact on Hawke's Bay and Gisborne.
Despite these difficulties, lower fruit volumes and a better availability of labour this season would allow the industry to focus on improving fruit quality and generating better returns for orchardists, he said.
"The industry's Quality Action Plan was launched in October last year and has seen significant collaboration throughout the entire industry to ensure we deliver great quality fruit for our customers and consumers in the 2023 season, as well as in the years ahead.
"That starts with ensuring that we're doing everything we can to have a great harvest and looking after the fruit throughout the supply chain."
Te Brake said the plan included optimising Zespri's shipping programme to ensure it was delivering consistently good quality fruit to consumers in offshore markets.
"While Covid-19 caused significant shipping disruption in recent years, we're expecting a more stable shipping environment this season, with better transit times delivering fruit to markets."
"With our first charter vessel now on the way to market, we're looking forward to our shipping programme ramping up in the weeks ahead," Te Brake said.