An apple a day keeps the doctor away — but what if you can’t find any?
In the face of recent apple shortages at local shops, growers and suppliers are expressing optimism as they anticipate a rebound in apple availability.
Factors such as adverse weather events, including Cyclone Gabrielle, and the usual seasonal lull have contributed to limited stock over the past few weeks.
Paul Paynter, general manager of the Yummy Fruit Company, who supplies New Zealand with everything from Ambrosia apples to Granny Smith, joined Breakfast this morning to discuss where the apples have gone.
Mr Yummy, as Paynter is affectionately known, said that with most fruits and veges, nature provides only one crop a year.
For Aotearoa, our apple crops are ready for harvest between February and April, “but about 24% of [the harvest was] washed out into the Pacific Ocean,” Paynter said.
“We ran out of fruit in December,” he said, due to Cyclone Gabrielle and the effect the storms had in Hawke’s Bay.
“We’ve had nearly 200,000 trees destroyed.”
Meanwhile, Hawke’s Bay grower Cameron Taylor lost 80% of his apples last year.
After months of hard work rebuilding, he is now seeing the fruits of his labour pay off.
Standing by a crop of healthy, good-sized Royal Gala Galaxy apples — ready for harvest in a couple of weeks — he told 1News the block was once under metres of water.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel, it was dark times for months, but as you can see behind me, the trees are healthy, full crop, and it’s exciting,” Taylor said.
While some customers have faced challenges finding specific apple varieties in stores, Taylor urged patience. He assured that with the recent favourable weather conditions, the new apple crop is on its way to replenish the shelves.
Early crops and industry predictions point towards a bumper harvest, with expectations of reaching pre-Covid levels of production.
Despite losing around 610 hectares of productive land, Danielle Adsett from New Zealand Apple & Pears emphasised the industry’s resilience.
“To replant that will take a number of years, then a number of years to be productive again but make no mistake this sector will deliver apples for New Zealand,” Adsett said.
Paynter said the apples in supermarkets today can come from a range of places — they may have been stored from the last harvest, or they may be imported.
“We’ve seen some apples from the USA on the shelf, which we don’t normally see over the summer,” he said.
He said there may also be some early season apples floating around, but that runs the risk of apples having a shorter shelf life.
To combat the risk of the apples we do have available being inedible, Paynter recommended lowering the respiration rate to keep apples fresher for longer.
“Apples basically, like we are, are breathing oxygen and giving off carbon dioxide… apples will store better, like a lot of produce, by keeping them in the fridge.”
He said that while apples will store in tabletop fruit bowls for a few days, they may last a few weeks in the fridge.
Woolworths New Zealand produce general manager Ryan McMullen acknowledged the staple status of apples in customer trolleys. He reassured customers that the new season, featuring Royal Gala apples, is just around the corner and will be hitting stores later this week.
As growers gear up for the upcoming harvest, consumers can look forward to the easing of apple shortages in the coming weeks. The industry’s resilience and dedication are set to bring fresh and abundant crisp apples back to local stores.
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Paynter said that any fruit or vegetable available at the supermarket is a great option, with stone fruits like nectarines and peaches, imported grapes, melons and berries readily available.
“Make the most of whatever promos are at the supermarket and that look fresh.”
He knows people are missing their apples and assured Breakfast viewers that the harvest should be starting soon.
“I’m expecting to be absolutely smashed with demand,” he said.
Additional reporting by Henry McMullan