Pipfruit New Zealand chief executive Alan Pollard said the final crop estimates were for $19.5 million export cartons for 2016, up 5.5 percent on last year.
He said based on current indicators, the industry was now forecasting export returns to top last season's bumper $630 million sales.
"2016 is likely to be the third back-to-back record export season for apples, and firmly cements New Zealand's apple industry's No 1 ranking in the world for international competitiveness."
It was going to be an "extremely exciting" time for the industry, he said, with significant growth, investment and profitability.
"It's great news for our apple growing regions, injecting millions directly back into the local economies of Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, Waikato, Wairarapa, Nelson, Central Otago and South Canterbury."
Mr Pollard said his organisation would be creating more jobs, training and career opportunities to support the growth in the pipfruit industry.
"We are seeing increased business for the horticultural service sector and greater economic activity and development in packhouses, cool storage, transport logistics and freight."
Young trees were now coming into production as a result of significant new plantings, breaking the off-season cycle expected for the coming season, he said.
"Even after Nelson experienced significant hail losses for some growers, the region is forecast to be down only slightly (6.6 percent) on last year, which is a very positive outcome," Mr Pollard said.