It's business as usual for the apple industry, says New Zealand Apples & Pears chief executive Alan Pollard.

"We know our apples have already started to arrive in our overseas markets and there is no indication of a reduction in demand," he said.

"They are certainly moving through the retail outlets into consumers' homes.

"The season has actually started pretty well for us, notwithstanding some of the problems around China access.


"What we are seeing are volumes pretty similar to last year and prices are pretty similar to last year as well.

"We anticipate that will continue because there is a strong demand for healthy fresh fruit and vegetables. Countries have to feed their populations.

"You know the old adage - an apple a day keeps the doctor away - and it is very true. We don't anticipate any impact currently on demand."

Rockit Global chief executive Austin Mortimer said strongest demand for its apple variety came from the country that, so far, is the hardest-hit by coronavirus.

"There is a base level of appreciation for fruit in China that's not like anything we see here in New Zealand," he said.

"With the advent of the coronavirus, people are endeavouring to eat far more healthily than they have in the past.

"If there is a risk to our business it is probably around logistics and cool-chain. It is not necessarily consumer demand."

The apple industry relies heavily on its seasonal workforce under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) programme. Most of the workers, meanwhile, have already arrived from overseas.


But with the majority living communally, any illness would need to be managed by employers, who are responsible for the pastoral care of their RSE workers, 5000 of whom are in Hawke's Bay.

Pollard said making sure workers did not become sick and managing any outbreak was a top priority.

The apple season ends in May, by which point it is hoped there will be a safe passage for the workers to return home.

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