A huge shift in Hawke's Bay's economy is under way as the region plays a major part in the growth of a billion-dollar apple export target by 2022 in only half the time that was forecast.
A hint of the boom came in Statistics New Zealand figures released this week, highlighting that New Zealand's fruit exports in the year to the end of June reached an all-time high of $2 billion, up 20 per cent for the year to June 2014.
But behind the figures are those being put to Prime Ministerial working groups and councils by Pipfruit NZ, with business development manager Gary Jones, of Hastings, highlighting what he believes is an almost hidden growth in economies across Hawke's Bay, Manawatu and Taranaki - with the apple industry in Hawke's Bay the major player.
"It's happening here, right under our noses," he says.
It is such that the target for the annual New Zealand apple export to hit $1 billion by the year 2022 could be reached as early as 2017, including more than doubling the value of Hawke's Bay's annual contribution to over $500 million in less than a decade.
Mr Jones says the "wheels are in progress" with the multiple new plantings in the Hawke's Bay region to cater to the booming Asian market, and the Middle East.
"We think we will hit the half-billion dollar market years and years earlier than we expected, at the current level of trajectory," he said.
Pipfruit NZ forecast, in March, it could hit 550,000 tonnes for the year, which compared with 488,000 last year. The export was expected to be maintained about 300,000.
Hawke's Bay provides about two-thirds, reaching at least 65 countries, and with a way to go, a goal for this season of about 303,000 tonnes regionally is now being modified, possibly as much as five per cent up.
According the Statistics NZ figures for the overall fruit export, both higher prices and a greater quantity of exports (up 9 percent) contributed to the overall rise.
"Record monthly fruit exports in April, May, and June 2015 led to an all-time high for the year ended June," international statistics manager Jason Attewell said.
Fruit exports in May 2015 had the highest-ever value for a month (at $445 million). June and April exports were the second- and third-highest, respectively.
Kiwifruit (59 per cent), apples (28 per cent), and avocados (5.7 per cent) made up most of the fruit exports, with 27 per cent to the European Union, 14 per cent to Japan, and 13 per cent to China.
Kiwifruit and apples led the monthly increases, with exports in May 2015 being the highest value recorded for both kiwifruit ($280 million) and apples ($157 million).
Earlier this year, Pipfruit NZ said Royal Gala were expected to be more than a quarter of the apple harvest at 28 per cent, Braeburn 20 per cent, and other varieties all at less than 10 per cent.
The cooler spring last year meant that the season started up to two weeks later than the previous year, but it was not impacting adversely on the quality of the fruit available.
Hail in some growing regions had meant that off the record production base, exports were maintaining average, Asia taking the greatest proportion at around 33 per cent.
Mr Jones said the impact of hail had not been as severe as earlier anticipated.