16 Mar 2015

Kiwifruit harvest likely to be bumper crop

4:15 pm on 16 March 2015

Kiwifruit growers have been on weather watch, with the harvest in the main growing area in the Bay of Plenty very close to starting, or just underway.

no caption

Photo: 123RF

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers president Neil Trebilco said growers in Kerikeri and Whangarei had not experienced weather anywhere near as damaging as first thought.

But he said growers in the Gisborne region, who were normally the first to harvest, would be awaiting the arrival of Cyclone Pam anxiously.

Mr Trebilco said strong winds and rain could potentially damage fruit and vines.

Meanwhile kiwifruit growers said they were expecting this year's harvest to be a bumper crop, as fruit-laden vines were ready for picking up to a week early.

The kiwifruit harvest usually gets underway in late March, but some growers are reporting crops are ready to be picked this week.

Neil Trebilco said the picking period for the gold variety had come earlier because of changes to maturity protocols.

"Well this will be the earliest anyone's picked the new gold variety and so that's a bit different, the other thing that's changed is the maturity protocols have changed for the new gold variety to allow an early pick and so growers will be waiting to see how that goes. Whenever you change anything like that there's a bit of a difference in how the fruit might out turn when you come to pack it and so growers will be just looking to see how that works out."

Mr Trebilco said each year crops were steadily recovering from the losses caused by the bacterial disease, PSA.

"The industry volumes have dipped substantially, they were around 111 million trays prior to PSA and they dropped back to around 85 million trays, this year it's looking like the crops going to be back up to 110 million trays again so that's a big rebound in terms of volumes and we're looking at even bigger crops next year."

Meanwhile the country's largest kiwifruit grower and packer, Seeka, says the fire that tore through one of its sheds almost two weeks ago caused significant damage to one of its cool rooms.

But its chief executive Michael Frank said it had not it put the company on the back foot for the harvest because the shed was normally used later in the season.

He said the main packhouse, forecourt, curing canopy and rear cool stores were not affected and the company was lucky to avoid a disastrous outcome.

"Essentially it hasn't been a knockout blow for us, the site is still operational and probably 95 percent operational for us even with the damage we have got in place and of course we want to be able to operate the site safely and so we're working hard to get information systems back up, forklifts back on site, get canopies designed sort of designed so that we've got all cover load out areas and so we've been very fortunate."

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs