Like all Waimea businesses involved in food production, apple growers have had a tough time over the past couple of months, with dry conditions and cuts in water takes affecting fruit growth.
That has meant apple sizes are smaller than normal but the upside of that is they are packed full of flavour, with sugar content concentrated.
Picking this year’s harvest began around the middle of last month and David Easton of Easton Apples, which has orchard blocks in Appleby and Mariri, near Motueka, says from what he has seen so far it’s a beautiful crop, with apples firm but tasty.
Early harvest crops, such as the smitten variety, have been smaller but sweeter than usual, he says, while royal gala is looking “absolutely stunning”.
Easton Apples employs just over 60 workers through the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme.
There’s also 10 support staff and a handful of locals picking at Easton’s 70 hectares in the Appleby area and 10ha at Mariri.
Picking is expected to take until the end of April.
During that time it’s expected 13,000 bins of apples will be picked, with each bin taking about 380 to 400kg, depending on variety. That’s slightly down on what was budgeted for last July.
The apples are exported around the world, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Malaysia, although about 35 per cent of the best quality apples are kept for retailers around the South Island.