Some U.S. importers are confirming what recent statistics from the New Zealand government show: Fruit exporters in the island nation are shifting toward Asia and away from North America.
However, program directors with The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Giumarra Wenatchee, a division of Los Angeles-based The Giumarra Cos., say there will be promotable supplies of apples and pears from New Zealand to tide over American consumers until domestic harvest begins.
In mid-June, New Zealand’s Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce released a report, “Driving Growth in the Fresh Fruit Sector,” that documented the growing opportunities in Asia as well as increasing interest from New Zealand’s growers about sending their fruit there.
“The report highlights that we can become a fruit bowl for Asia. Asian consumers prefer the sweetness and quality of New Zealand fruit, and we are achieving considerable success there,” Joyce said in a news release June 13.
Jason Bushong, sales manager for Giumarra Wanatchee, said apple volumes out of New Zealand in particular are expected to be down slightly through the import season this year.
“Other markets in the world, especially Asia, are starting to have an impact on availability” Bushong said. Despite competition from other regions for supplies and weather issues that delayed most pipfruit in New Zealand by a week or two this year, flavor profiles are exceptional for apples and pears from the country this season, said Bushong.
Bushong and David Nelley, Oppenheimer’s category director for apples and pears, said unusually large supplies of U.S. storage apples from the 2012 harvest are causing a bit of an issue for the New Zealand import deal, but both said they were confident their customers would continue to seek fresh stock.
“Traditionally you might think that demand for imports would be down because of the storage situation,” Nelley said. “Demand, for apples especially, is so high right now that we are seeing good prices that we expect to carry on through the New Zealand deal,” Nelley said.
Nelley said demand for Jazz apples, for example, are exceeding supplies.
He said a clean finish for the variety in Washington primed consumers for the import season. He expects to bring about 375,000 40-pound equivalents to the states this season.
“Jazz is the largest variety in terms of volume we import from New Zealand,” Nelley said, adding that about 40% of all Oppy apple imports from the country are the Jazz variety. Envy apples also are highly anticipated, Nelley said.
Oppenheimer is the exclusive importer, but the sweet red apples won’t be available until early July. Nelley said supplies should last through September.
Oppenheimer increased its import volume of taylor’s gold pears from New Zealand to more than 120,000 15-pound boxes this season, and Nelley expects 95% of the fruit to be in the hands of consumers by Independence Day.
Nelley said the dry New Zealand summer worked similar magic for pears as it did for apples, with fruit size slightly smaller than usual but strong flavor and brix counts.
Aside from the taylor’s gold pears, Nelley said good volumes of other varieties should come on and last until domestic supplies are again available.“There was some wind in a few areas that affected a few pears with wind rub, but nothing to worry about,” Nelley said.
At Giumarra Wenatchee, Bushong said comice, taylor’s gold and other varieties from New Zealand should be available through June and possibly into early July. However, the big pear news for the company’s New Zealand import program this season is the Angelys variety.
Giumarra tested the Angelys variety in 2012 with very limited distribution. Response from retailers and consumers was tremendous, Bushong said, so the company expanded the program for 2013. Bushong said the Angelys pears should begin arriving in July. Giumarra has exclusive North America supplier rights for the Angleys grown in New Zealand by Freshmax.
“This is one of the best eating years I’ve seen,” bushing said. “The flavor is exceptional with high brix and a creamy textured flesh.”