The kiwifruit industry is celebrating the ''biggest kiwifruit harvest ever'', as volumes of fruit reach record levels.
The news comes after a season update from Zespri which shows the median price of gold kiwifruit licences has skyrocketed to $400,023 per hectare from $290,000 in 2019.
The long-awaited release of red kiwifruit licences has also hit the market, with the median price fetching $62,500 per hectare.
Tomorrow Zespri will announce its 2019-2020 season results but chief grower and alliances officer Dave Courtney said ''this is the largest harvest we've ever had and our biggest volume ever''.
''We have produced more gold kiwifruit than we ever have which is about 85 million trays.''
He said an early start to the season had also helped Zespri get fruit into the market early which was beneficial.
Last season kiwifruit growers in the Bay of Plenty received $1.4 billion in returns and Zespri posted record revenue of $3b from fruit sales and licence earnings.
Apata managing director Stuart Weston said the industry had ''come up smelling of roses'' under extraordinary circumstances.
The kiwifruit sector did well under pressure and Covid-19 was no exception, he said.
''We are delighted and jubilant that we have got through the industry's biggest harvest ever... so needless to say we are thrilled to bits.''
Weston said it had been a vintage season for taste but fruit size had been impacted by the dry weather - with green kiwifruit coming in well under initial estimates.
''The rain didn't come in any amount that was meaningful so it's been remarkable how the vines have coped, and it's been remarkable how the industry has coped with Covid.''
Volumes this season at Apata had soared to about 14.5 million trays from 11.5m last year and Weston said it was able to offer employment opportunities to people who had lost jobs, including workers from Hobbiton.
''We were able to feed in from other industries and had some excellent workers so I guess the talent that we've seen in our packhouses this year is almost unprecedented.''
Trevelyan's managing director, James Trevelyan, said it was another successful season.
''It has been a great season for everybody but we are only halfway there. We have put it in a box and now we have to get this lovely fruit through the cash register in the supermarket.''
Volumes of kiwifruit were up Trevelyan said and ''we're bubbling along at about 16m trays as some growers were cutting over to gold''.
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc chief executive Nikki Johnson said the 2020 kiwifruit harvest had been challenging due to Covid-19 but record gold volumes and being able to offer Kiwis jobs were highlights.
The pandemic had required rapid action across the industry as new systems and processes were applied, which included traceability and increased hygiene, she said.
Reduced numbers of Recognised Seasonal Employer employees and backpackers due to border closures had meant more opportunities for New Zealanders.
NZKGI had also collaborated with Zespri to form a Labour Co-ordination Centre to match prospective employees with employers.
''While there were some challenges experienced, including high turnover rates, these efforts largely mitigated a serious shortfall in labour allowing the successful harvest of kiwifruit.''
This season would certainly be one of the largest for fruit volume harvested, but we won't know the full outcome until the fruit has been sold in market, she said.
The season update report from Zespri said 700ha of Gold 3 had been released with a median price of $400,023 this year. Figures show there were 544 bidders; 216 were successful and the minimum accepted bid was $378,900.
There were 157 bidders for 150ha of red kiwifruit; 103 were successful and the minimum accepted bid was $30,434. The median price was $62,500.
However, green kiwifruit grower Rob Thode said in his view the price of gold licences were ludicrous which made it hard for growers to cut over.
By his own calculations, he had lost about $80,000 this season on his crop due in part to Covid-19 and packhouse allocations.
Russell West, who lives in Tauranga but has an orchard in the Hawke's Bay, said he had a very good season.
''I was greatly relieved that we were even able to pick the crop because at the beginning of the season, there seemed to be some doubt. So my basic feeling is we were very lucky and privileged to be able to continue picking and getting the crop off at all.''
West said the noise coming out of Zespri was that they were not having any real issues and kiwifruit was performing well overseas due to it being high in Vitamin C and other health benefits.
''In the past, we had our bad run with Psa but now it's the small businesses I feel sorry for and the tourism industry.'
Zespri new appointment
* Alastair Hulbert has been appointed chief global supply chain officer and will start in July based in the Mount Maunganui head office. Alastair was a former chief operating officer in America for Total Produce, one of the world's largest fresh produce companies, and has previously been chief executive of T&G Global from 2013-2017 following time as their head of international markets, and chief executive of T&G Global's subsidiary, Delica Global.