According to the USDA’s fresh deciduous fruit report released in May 2022, both apple and pear production in New Zealand is forecast to rise year-on-year (y-o-y) in the 2021/22 MY (January ‘22-December ‘22). Apple production is forecast to reach 553,000 tonnes (+2.8% y-o-y), whilst pear production is forecast at 11,500 (+8.0% y-o-y). Despite this, production is still estimated to be below previous estimations due to the impact of COVID-19 related workforce shortages, which has resulted in some orchards not being harvested within scheduled timeframes.
The limited availability of harvest workers has restricted many growers in top producing regions from picking apples and pears and is, therefore, expected to limit total production this year. There has been a shortage of temporary workers, largely travellers from abroad and workers from the pacific islands due to international border closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the high demand for labour in other industries. The supply of workers is expected to remain tight for the upcoming season, potentially restricting the quantities of apples and pears available on the market. This has recently been exacerbated by COVID-19 outbreaks in New Zealand amongst staff responsible for picking and packaging, which has further delayed harvest and thus the availability of produce. Growers are prioritising the harvest of apples and pears with export-quality and of the highest value, to maximise potential profits.