Modest kiwifruit harvest leaves growers under par
- Growers disappointed with volume of kiwifruit produced in 2023
- Another year of financial pressure burdens kiwifruit growers
- Eye kept on kiwifruit quality as it gets exported to overseas markets
- Light at the end of the tunnel in 2024
The 2023 harvest of kiwifruit, New Zealand’s largest horticultural export, has largely ended with the crop now being shipped to overseas markets.
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. CEO Colin Bond says that this was one of the most financially unrewarding harvests in recent memory due to the low volume produced. “The kiwifruit industry did relatively well during COVID because we were allowed to continue to operate”, says Colin. “However, the last two years have been our equivalent to the economic strains experienced by other industries throughout the pandemic – now it’s our turn”. The raft of problems for growers began with quality in late 2022 and have continued into 2023 with poor pollination, wind, flooding, hail and cyclones reducing the crop size. Originally thinking 160 million trays of kiwifruit would be produced, the final number is more likely to be well under 140 million trays, a far reach from 2022’s 175 million trays. On average, each tray has around 30 pieces of kiwifruit.
Bond says the increased costs for growing and exporting kiwifruit makes it particularly painful for growers in seasons of low production. “Growers are putting even more pressure on Zespri to perform in their markets to get the best possible returns with smaller volumes kiwifruit. Despite Zespri reporting that the quality of our kiwifruit going to market is high and the forecast returns looking good so far, NZKGI will continue to track the quality closely over the coming months. The industry has worked collaboratively to reduce quality issues and it is even more critical that this work pays off in a low yield year”.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel, with 2024 forecast to be one of the largest ever. “There will be a huge responsibility on the whole supply chain to perform so that we can deliver this large volume of kiwifruit in great condition to consumers”, says Colin. “Planning is already underway across the industry. While we can’t control the weather, we must ensure that we get our processes right to increase our chance of success and relieve growers from their financial burdens.” With $2.9 billion of export earnings in 2022, New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry is an important contributor to the economies where kiwifruit is grown with many communities benefiting from its success.