New Zealand will play bigger role in US organic apple imports this season

From Fresh Plaza | 6 April 2023

Overview of organic apples from New Zealand in the U.S. market, complemented by charts from Agronometrics. Original published on April 5, 2023. 

The first organic Williams Bartlett pears from Argentina arrived in the US market mid-February and the season is in full swing for most other varieties. “In addition to Williams Bartlett, we have received Red Bartlett, Abate Fetel, Durondeau, Alexander Lucas, d’Anjou and Autumn Bartlett while Bosc are on the water,” says Chris Ford with Viva Tierra Organic, bringing to market organic produce only. While Argentina had a freeze earlier in the season, shipments of Viva Tierra’s pears started on time and the company’s program has not been affected.

“Argentina is our main source for organic pears with Chile being primarily apples” said Ford. With US holdings being down, the expectations were for South America to play an important role. However, Chile’s apple crop is also short, specifically on Gala, which could make for an interesting summer.”

Due to Chile’s short crop, more volume from New Zealand is expected to make its way over to the US. “We are excited to feature a new apple program from New Zealand, which really rounds out our global portfolio nicely and should result in a smooth transition into the new California Gala crop at the end of July,” commented Ford. All efforts should result in enough availability of fruit in the North American market. However, US movement has been slower than normal, which is primarily caused by inflation. “With costs up in every aspect of the supply chain, it is difficult to grow consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. We will continue to focus on balancing the needs of our growers, customers, and consumers in hopes consumption will pick up.”

apple volumes by history 5

Source: USDA Market News via Agronometrics.
(Agronometrics users can view this chart with live updates here)

The same smooth transition is expected for organic pears. “In the local market, there is still some D’Anjou in storage from last year,” Ford commented. Nevertheless, customers are always looking forward to the new spring crop pears and Viva Tierra expects steady supplies from Argentina until the new California crops start mid-July. “In general, we plan not to have much overlap between the crops and specifically varieties from different growing regions.” As a result, the import season will finish in August.

30-year anniversary

This year marks Viva Tierra’s 30th year of bringing in fruit from Argentina. “We were the first company to import organic pears and apples into North America,” shared Ford. Now, the second generation of young organic farmers is focused on growing high-quality organic top fruit for the North American market. What has changed over the years? “A big shift came for us in 2017/2018 when the volume of organically certified apples in Washington essentially doubled. This meant there was no longer a stand-alone window for organic imports to fill. We had to tailor our programs to meet that shift in demand.”

However, customers and consumers appreciate the availability of a new crop fruit. “Having fruit available from Washington, South America, New Zealand, and California allows us to follow the seasons and focus on flavor with year-round supplies. This strategy and model allow us to be nimble and shift quickly when needed.”

The News in Charts is a collection of stories from the industry complemented by charts from Agronometrics to help better tell their story.

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