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Bumper year for pipfruit growers

The year 2002 was the most profitable for pipfruit growers in 10 years, with a combination of good production, favourable market conditions and a low exchange rate.

This is the main point in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's (MAF's) latest report on developments in the pipfruit sector as part of the Ministry's regular farm monitoring programme.

MAF senior policy analyst Chris Ward says the area planted in pipfruit has contracted and is concentrated in Hawkes Bay and Nelson.

In 1994 the total pipfruit area was 17,182 hectares, in 2000, 15,100 hectares, and it is now estimated to be 12,500 hectares.

"However industry confidence is currently high and nurseries report a big demand for trees," Mr Ward says.

The year examined was the first full year of deregulation of the sector and the report finds that overall growers are happy with developments.

"Growers do, however, recognise that deregulation coincided with favourable market conditions," says Mr Ward. "In 2002 ENZA still handled 42 percent of the crop and there were 85 other exporters, some very small."

MAF expects a small decline in grower pay-outs in 2004 due to better overseas crops and a higher New Zealand dollar.

The current 2003 crop was affected by frost in October 2002 in Hawkes Bay and by hail in November 2002 affecting Riwaka, Lower Moutere and Tasman, north of Nelson.

Mr Ward says some hail-affected orchardists will not be harvesting any fruit this season.

Fruit size is also small in 2003, due mainly to inadequate thinning of fruit after frost and hail. More than usual amounts of small fruit will be sent to Asia and the United Kingdom.

MAF has changed the timing of the pipfruit monitoring this year to cover the calendar year, as this better reflects the income flows from each annual crop. In the past, advanced and deferred payments relating to two seasons but one June 30th year had caused some confusion. The IRD now accepts calendar year accounting for pipfruit growers.

As part of its pipfruit monitoring programme, MAF has two model orchards - one in Hawkes Bay and the other in Nelson.

MAF gathers data from 20 orchards to build up each model, which represents a typical situation. Developments on these orchards relating to issues such as season, prices, and markets are used to illustrate trends in the wider sector.

Since 1999, the model orchard size has expanded in Hawkes Bay from 9.2 to 15.0 planted hectares. Orchardists have amalgamated into bigger blocks. In Nelson the planted area has increased from 13.5 to 14.4 hectares.

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