Labour shortages took the edge off what was otherwise a good pipfruit season in Hawke's Bay.

Sector chairman Ben James said smaller growers who did not qualify for RSE labour found it especially hard.

Full employment in Hawke's Bay and a shortage of backpackers who found Hawke's Bay too expensive to live in while they worked did not help, he said.

Nor did problems with transferring holiday visas into work visas after a labour shortage was declared in late February. Workers wanting to renew their visas had to pay twice and could not work while their application was in the queue.


"This is not a good message to send to backpackers. We need to make Hawke's Bay financially attractive to them," James said.

The rapid expansion of the apple industry in Hawke's Bay did not help the situation, he said.

The crop itself was down in volume because of smaller fruit caused by wet weather around Christmas and warm nights over the growing season.

Fruit was selling well at the moment with envy and pacific queen popular, especially in the expanding Asian market, he said

Another concern for the industry was the amount of top-class growing soil disappearing under housing, James said.

"It's a concern for all growing industries in Hawke's Bay."

A warm, dry spring and summer in the Bay of Plenty cost Hawke's Bay kiwifruit growers their early crop premium this year.

Sector chairman Richard Pentreath said the Kiwistart premium was paid for early fruit which Hawke's Bay supplied most years.


However, this year the dry weather in the Bay of Plenty meant fruit there matured early and took up the allowance for Kiwistart.

However, it was not all bad news as fruit left on the vine for longer had more dry matter and was bigger, he said.

Overall it was a good season for Hawke's Bay growers.

Labour was in good supply, the weather held for the picking season and yields were up on last year's figures of 1.66 million trays of Gold3 and 293,000 trays of the Hayward green variety.

This year those figures are 1.98 million trays of Gold3 and 187,000 of Hayward green. This shows that the Hayward green variety is being replaced by Gold3.

Market returns were also solid with $10.50/tray for gold fruit and $6/tray for green.

Pentreath said gold varieties made up 75 per cent of Hawke's Bay's planting.

The industry was growing in Hawke's Bay and now Gisborne was "coming into the picture", he said.

China is the biggest market for New Zealand fruit.

For stonefruit growers last season was not one of the better ones.

Sector spokesman Brian Fulford said wet weather at flowering and harvest time made for an "average" season with disease and quality problems.

Returns were on a par with last year but there was less fruit to sell.

Because the harvest is earlier than other fruit there was no problem with labour with plenty of RSE workers available.

Fulford said it was the second average season in a row after a "boomer" in 2017.

He said some stonefruit orchards were being replaced with apple trees because that industry was doing so well.

"Next year will be different."