Tuesday, 28 February 2023 14:55

Kiwifruit growers brace for hit

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
NZKGI chief executive Colin Bond says this season looks to be an “extraordinarily challenging one”. NZKGI chief executive Colin Bond says this season looks to be an “extraordinarily challenging one”.

The 2023 kiwifruit harvest season has kicked off with growers bracing for lower yield and poor quality fruit.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) says adverse weather over recent months has meant that the 2023 season is forecast to be a lower volume year than last year’s 160 million trays exported to overseas markets.

NZKGI chief executive Colin Bond says this season looks to be an “extraordinarily challenging one” for growers.

He says NZKGI is focused on alleviating a range of pressures on many growers at this time.

“There is also a wider concern with the recent climatic conditions, including lack of sunlight hours, which may impact on fruit growth as harvest approaches,” Bond told Rural News.

“There is also a wider concern with the recent climatic conditions, including lack of sunlight hours, which may impact on fruit growth as harvest approaches.”

Bond says the industry has been working hard to lessen ongoing quality issues that hampered last years’ harvest.

“Growers have also faced adverse weather effects such as hail, frosts, cyclones and associated flooding in the lead up to harvest that have impacted on kiwifruit volumes. Combined with a year of poor opening of flower buds which form kiwifruit, this season looks to be an extraordinarily challenging one for growers.”

The lower forecast volume for 2023 means the sector will need less labour than 2022, which required 24,000 people to pick and pack the fruit.

The reopening of New Zealand’s borders, lack of Covid-19 and downward economy also indicates a temporary respite from the severe labour shortages of previous years.

However, Bond points out that the drop in volume of kiwifruit produced in 2023 only provides the industry with temporary relief. The pressure to source sufficient labour in 2024 is forecast to return when volumes significantly increase.

New Zealand has approximately 2,800 kiwifruit growers located from Kerikeri to Motueka.

“The industry must work together to ensure the 2023 season runs as smoothly as possible despite the curveballs being thrown,” Bond told Rural News. “I encourage kiwis to get involved in the industry, whether it be picking, pruning, packhouse work or otherwise.”

Seeka Spared

One of the country’s largest kiwifruit traders, Seeka, says the full extent of the impact on the 2023 crops will likely remain unknown until the fruit is harvested.

The listed company says its core Bay of Plenty kiwifruit growing region was spared the worst by Cyclone Gabrielle.

However, the Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, Coromandel and Kerikeri regions had varying degrees of impact, with Hawke’s Bay being worst hit. Approximately 5% of Seeka’s kiwifruit supply is grown in the Hawke’s Bay region.

Seeka chief executive Michael Franks told Rural News the 2023 kiwifruit volumes are expected to be lower than the 2022 harvest year due to an early season frost, variable bud break and Cyclone Gabrielle.

“Our response to this circumstance includes a reduction to the 2023 capital expenditure programme and a focus on reducing costs in line with the lower crop expectation.”

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