New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc is predicting up to a $100m year-on-year reduction of crop export earnings nationwide amid a shortage of labour.
In January, the industry was forecasting a gross national crop of 558,672 metric tonnes – a 5 per cent decrease from the 2020 harvest.
The export share of the gross crop was predicted to be 374,751 metric tonnes (20.8 million cartons) – 7 per cent down on 2020.
But according to the newest New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc crop estimate for 2021, the industry now expects the export share of the gross national crop to be around 347,718 metric tonnes or 19.3 million cartons.
This is three million cartons (14 per cent) below 2020 and represents a $95m to $100m year-on-year reduction of export earnings.
NZAPI CEO Alan Pollard said the drop reflects a shortage of available labour and significant hail events in the Nelson and Central Otago.
"As we near peak harvest, it has become increasingly clear that we will not achieve those initial forecasts", he said.
"Labour availability on orchards and in our post-harvest operations is well short of numbers needed by the industry despite doing all we can to attract New Zealanders into work."
"In addition, the fruit size is coming in smaller on average than we forecast," he added.
Braeburn is the most significantly impacted with a revised estimate of 1,468,000 cartons – 44 per cent below 2020 levels, while Royal Gala, which remains the variety with the largest share of exports, is now forecast to be 15 per cent or 1,088,000 cartons down on 2020.
"While the size profile is smaller than we expected, putting premium sizes into short supply, quality remains very good, and the fruit is well coloured," Pollard said.
Pollard said New Zealand had a global reputation for reliability, consistency and quality.
"Demand is strong in our key markets, but we remain concerned about continuing disruption to international shipping schedules and port congestion."