Hawke's Bay's contribution to the world's "most competitive" apple industry is set to grow, with more than 100,000 new plantings at just one Hastings orchard alone set to further the region's future standing.
For the fourth year running, the United States-based World Apple Review has named New Zealand's apple industry the most competitive on the global stage, against 33 major apple growing countries.
The review, released by Belrose Inc, the world fruit market analysts, stated that the innovations emerging from New Zealand's apple industry would increasingly impact production and marketing throughout the world and added that high productivity gains helped deliver outstanding performance, ahead of its closest rivals Chile and the United States.
"To earn and then retain this world-leading title year on year is an outstanding achievement, and rewards everyone who is part of New Zealand's exciting and dynamic apple industry," New Zealand Apples and Pears chief executive Alan Pollard said.
Being named the best in the world was a huge honour and signalled the major significance New Zealand had on shaping and leading the industry on the world stage, he said.
Pollard said the world-leader ranking came as a huge reward to New Zealand's $850 million apple industry which was celebrating one of its best seasons ever.
New Zealand's largest apple exporter, T&G Global, said it was equally delighted but pointed out that the accolade had not been achieved overnight.
"It's really the culmination of decades of conscious effort by New Zealand growers and supporting partners to ensure locally bred and grown apples stand up to scrutiny on the world stage from colour and taste to texture," T&G general manager pipfruit New Zealand Bruce Beaton said.
"T&G for example has been working with Plant and Food Research since the 80s on varieties such as Jazz which is now one of the world's top five apples.
"Envy, also a collaboration with Plant & Food, has been judged America's favourite up against 32 others for two years in a row so for a relatively small country, we really are punching above our weight."
Beaton said the recent harvest was a large one with good apple quality from T&G's – and growers' - orchards in Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Nelson and Central Otago.
"Harvest was significantly earlier than last year which did put pressure on storage but fruit is well on its way to our markets and in New Zealand retail environments for consumers to enjoy."
Beaton said T&G now exported apples to 60 countries.
"Growing demand has seen significantly more trees planted over the past year including around 113,000 on a new 47ha leased block at Moteo.
"The orchard has been planted in a two-dimensional format rather than the usual three to ensure fruit has more access to light and delivers greater consistency of eating quality and is easier to pick. It's a common approach in Washington State and Italy but not so much in New Zealand.
"It's just another example of how the apple industry is continuing to evolve and place greater emphasis on land availability and natural resources with our new orchard using less water and power."
Beaton was excited about the continued growth of New Zealand's pipfruit industry but stressed delivering consistent quality and developing strong brands were two key pillars all growers and exporters must continue to focus on to maintain the nation's global reputation as the world's leader.
The company has also planted another 115,000 plantings at a 47ha orchard at Puketapu, near Napier.
A first small crop is expected to be harvested in the New Year.
Industrywide, about one million new trees are expected to be planted across Hawke's Bay every year for the next five years.