New Zealand Growers' Hopes Not Washed Away by Heavy Rains

Industry officials predict a second-consecutive production decline in New Zealand following an excessively wet summer.
(Photo: Totara Tunnel)
By Lisa Anderson
Apr. 17, 2023 14:07 UTC

New Zealand’s olive farm­ers started har­vest­ing late last month, and although many pro­duc­ers look for­ward to a boun­ti­ful yield, they have been affected by the sig­nif­i­cant rain­fall in recent months.

Emma Glover, Olives New Zealand’s exec­u­tive offi­cer, said the first groves in the country’s Northland region started har­vest­ing in late March. While most of the country’s har­vest usu­ally runs through May and June, she said the sea­son is run­ning two weeks later than usual this year.

Well-main­tained groves, with good prun­ing and spray­ing man­age­ment, are more resilient and there­fore have with­stood the weather bet­ter and should have a mod­er­ate sea­son.- Emma Glover, exec­u­tive offi­cer, Olives New Zealand

Based on what she has heard, Glover said the 2022/23 har­vest would be down on last year’s, which was down on the 2020/21 crop year. New Zealand had its sec­ond wet­ter-than-usual sum­mer in a row,” she said.

Well-main­tained groves, with good prun­ing and spray­ing man­age­ment, are more resilient and there­fore have with­stood the weather bet­ter and should have a mod­er­ate sea­son,” Glover added. Groves that are not so well-main­tained look some­what shabby and tired, result­ing in a mixed har­vest across groves.”

See Also:2023 Harvest News

She said some pock­ets of the coun­try have been drier and are look­ing for­ward to a bet­ter har­vest than last year, pro­vided they can main­tain ade­quate sun­shine hours in April.

Other areas have been impacted by Cyclone Gabrielle, which has caused flood­ing in groves, wind dam­age to trees and infra­struc­ture dam­age to areas,” Glover said. Being such a wet sea­son, many groves found it dif­fi­cult to main­tain the spray cycles. Disease, par­tic­u­larly anthrac­nose, will need to be mon­i­tored closely pre-har­vest.”

She said smaller groves would face chal­lenges with the avail­abil­ity of pre-booked har­vesters and mills if har­vest dates need to change due to dis­ease. Infrastructure dam­age post-Cyclone Gabrielle will cre­ate chal­lenges for some groves to get har­vesters and fruit on and off the prop­er­ties,” Glover con­firmed.

However, Diana Crosse, co-owner of Kapiti Olives on the Kāpiti Coast north of Wellington, said the floods and winds that Gabrielle brought to large parts of the coun­try missed them.

She told Olive Oil Times they expect to har­vest at the end of May into early June, around the same time they tra­di­tion­ally har­vest.

Weather depen­dent, of course,” Crosse added, as last year we were delayed for three weeks due to a very wet spell.”

The trees now need sunny autumn days lead­ing into har­vest,” she said. We are busy deal­ing with water shoots, mak­ing sure our bird scar­ers are ready to go, all in prepa­ra­tion for our har­vest,” she said.

Crosse pre­dicted the har­vest would decrease by up to 25 per­cent from last year. The whole grove had a very heavy prune – about 30 per­cent – to man­age the size of the trees for both height and light,” she explained. We also had some pol­li­na­tion inter­rup­tion in our Koroneiki block, prob­a­bly due to heavy rain for a week,” she said.


(Photo: Kapiti Olives)

Along with Kapiti Olives, the pro­duc­ers at Juno Olives from the Wairarapa region on the North Island are get­ting ready to har­vest around the same time. 

We would expect to start in early June, depend­ing on weather,” co-owner Andrew Liley said. The har­vest is look­ing more promis­ing than last year for all vari­eties, with bet­ter weather around the time of flow­er­ing and fruit set than last year, as well as being our on-year’ [in the olive trees’ nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle].”

With a wet­ter than nor­mal sum­mer, we need a bit of drier, sun­nier weather to see some ripen­ing hap­pen­ing,” he added. I’ve only been grow­ing olives for the last three years, so I am unsure if ripen­ing will be later or we will be har­vest­ing pre­dom­i­nantly green fruit.”

The wet year has made keep­ing on top of dis­ease in the trees a bit prob­lem­atic,” Liley con­tin­ued, but on the whole, we could be in a much worse posi­tion given what hap­pened with the cyclone in Hawkes Bay.”


Another pro­ducer from the North Island, Loopline Olives, is due to start har­vest­ing in late July.

The trees are laden with fruit, but we have and con­tinue to have an incred­i­bly wet sum­mer,” owner Stephen Davies Howard told Olive Oil Times. It will be inter­est­ing to see the effect on the oil when we har­vest.”

Also from the North Island, Margaret Hanson, who co-owns Blue Earth in the Wairarapa region, told Olive Oil Times they are excited about this year’s har­vest. 

It looks big­ger than last year, our biggest yet,” she said. It has been sat­is­fy­ing to see the grove grow in pro­duc­tiv­ity and gen­er­ally avoid any sig­nif­i­cant bien­nial bear­ing.”

The team at Blue Earth is due to start har­vest­ing in mid-June. This is a lit­tle later than the last few years,” she said. Our pro­jected har­vest dates for our vine­yard are back to where they were 10 years ago, so we are guess­ing that our olives may be sim­i­lar.”

Hanson said the weather remains their main chal­lenge. It has been a very wet sea­son,” she con­firmed, although the rain is slow­ing some­what now.” 

It has been hard work to keep on top of the spray­ing, but so far, it has worked, and we don’t have any sig­nif­i­cant dis­ease,” Hanson added. We now just want it to dry out, so the fruit is not loaded with water and to help con­cen­trate the fla­vors.”

Ross Vintiner, co-owner of Dali Estate, also located in the Wairarapa region, plans to start har­vest­ing ear­lier than Blue Earth. 

Dali Estate begins har­vest­ing mid-May, ear­lier than most in Wairarapa, to gain higher health­ful phe­no­lic com­pounds, lower the risk of frost, and pro­duce a dynamic fla­vor pro­file,” Vintiner explained.

Due to chal­leng­ing rain and cool spring weather, our flow­er­ing and fruit set was com­pro­mised for Picual and Kalamata, although our Tuscan and Greek vari­eties look promis­ing, bet­ter than last year,” he told Olive Oil Times. Fruit is full, and there are early signs of good oil accu­mu­la­tion, and Brix read­ings indi­cate the usual high polyphe­nol lev­els in Dali oils.”

Brix read­ingsproduction-business-australia-and-new-zealand-new-zealand-growers-hopes-not-washed-away-by-heavy-rains-olive-oil-times

Brix read­ings are a mea­sure of the sugar con­tent in a liq­uid, typ­i­cally in the con­text of mea­sur­ing the sweet­ness of fruit juice, wine, or other bev­er­ages. The Brix scale is based on the refrac­tive index of the liq­uid, which changes in pro­por­tion to the amount of dis­solved sugar. Brix read­ings are expressed as a per­cent­age, and a higher Brix read­ing indi­cates a higher sugar con­tent. In agri­cul­ture and food pro­duc­tion, Brix read­ings are often used to deter­mine when fruits or veg­eta­bles are ripe enough for har­vest or to mon­i­tor the progress of fer­men­ta­tion in wine or beer-mak­ing.

Variable weather and birds are always chal­lenges at har­vest,” Vintiner added, espe­cially for a bio­dy­namic and organic grove. Thankfully, the Dali team is ready to go, and our mar­kets con­tinue to grow. We’re look­ing for­ward to this har­vest, fol­lowed by a bumper crop next year.”

Like Vintiner, the co-owner of Totara Tunnel Olives on the Kāpiti Coast, Sally Murrey, listed the weather as a pos­si­ble chal­lenge. 

Always hard to pre­dict; we’ve had some very volatile weather in New Zealand,” she said. “[There have been] severe cyclones in some parts of the coun­try – our region has not been impacted – but other olive grow­ing regions have.”

Murrey told Olive Oil Times they plan to start har­vest­ing at the end of May, depend­ing on the weather. She pre­dicted their har­vest would be bet­ter than last year’s based on the fruit set of their trees. We always hope for no early frosts,” she said.


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