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2018 National Apple and Pear Crop Estimate

Industry Best Practice

Key points:

  • Gross pome production up 3 per cent
  • Apples – Class 1 packout volumes down 7 per cent
  • Pears – volumes up 14 per cent
  • Other states lead Vic in trend to managed varieties

The 2018 Australian apple and pear crop will be up three per cent on last year’s levels, but Class 1 apple production is forecast to fall by seven per cent, according to the annual Apple and Pear Crop Estimate released this week.

The Apple and Pear Crop Estimate for 2018, prepared by consultancy group AgFirst and funded by Hort Innovation using the apple and pear research and development levy and funds from the Australian Government, has forecast a gross 2018 pome fruit crop of 413,082t compared to 400,902t in 2017.

Apple production for 2018 is forecast to be 296,941t, down by by just under one per cent.  While the gross volume is fairly steady, the Class 1 packout is expected to be significantly down in volume by 7 per cent compared with 2017.   The Class 1 packout is a measure of the volume of fruit on the fresh fruit market meeting Class 1 specification, expressed as a percentage of the total crop packed out. The higher the Class 1 packout percentage, the higher the revenue to growers.  The Australian average Class 1 packout for apples is expected to be 67 per cent for 2018 compared with 72 per cent in 2017.

Apple production remains steady but the Class 1 packout levels are forecast to be down in 2018

Pear production by contrast is forecast to rise by 14 per cent to 116,141t  in 2018, with percent Class 1 packout 65 per cent.

The 2018 season has served as a harsh reminder to many growers as to how significant the risks are with fruit growing.  While some regions are expected to perform well, in other regions significant hail events have made this a season growers would probably rather forget.

The significant change in Class 1 apple packouts is largely attributable to hail having affected the Adelaide Hills region in South Australia in late October, where 95 per cent of the region’s area was affected, and an estimated 70 per cent of the crop impacted to some degree.  While the losses are quite severe, of this 70 per cent affected it is believed almost half could be salvageable and put into either Class 1 or Class 2 specifications, depending on what is finally picked and packed, and also on whether retailers allow levels of tolerance for damaged fruit.

Many other regions (like the Goulburn Valley, southern Victoria, Batlow, Queensland and Tasmania) all experienced some hail but these were not regarded as being significantly above the norm in determining the estimate overall.  While hail will have an impact on the 2018 result it is also the combination of variety mix changes and various regional trends which has greatly contributed to this forecast.

Changing variety mix

Although production levels are relatively consistent, closer examination of the data reveals some profound trends and competing factors that indicate Australia’s apple and pear industry is undergoing some substantial changes.

While variety Cripps Pink (marketed as Pink Lady®) continued to dominate the national apple crop, accounting for 35pc of production, estimates by variety show the rise of the managed apple varieties continues. The volume of “other apple inc. club varieties” rose 28 per cent to 31,075t, accounting for 10 per cent of apple production, up from 8 per cent last year.

Gala accounted for 22 per cent of production compared with 20 per cent in 2017.  Granny Smith was reduced this year to 15 per cent compared with 19 per cent in 2017, although it’s expected this will bounce back in 2019.

The once popular Cripps Red (marketed as Sundowner™) has continued to fall out of favour with Australian retailers and continues to be removed from orchards. Production is forecast to be just 3,856t in 2018 –  down by 77 per cent from the 16,604t produced in 2015.  Golden Delicious and Red Delicious are also in decline but at slower rates than is currently occurring with Cripps Red.

The steady demise of Cripps Red, Golden Delicious and Red Delicious is largely making way for new varieties often marketed as club varieties.  Due to limited data being available, the crop estimate report refers collectively to these as ‘other apples’, which is largely referring to club apples – namely Jazz™, Kanzi®, Bravo™, Envy™, Modi™, Smitten™ and Rockit™.

Currently  ‘other apples’ represents 10 per cent of Australia’s total production and has now collectively overtaken Fuji as the fourth-most-produced apple category, according to the estimate.  As a result, future crop estimates should be looking to gather more specific information regarding the levels of individual new varieties being planted.

According to the estimate, Victoria now accounts for 46 per cent of Australia’s total apple production.  While this is not specifically measured in the crop forecast, this is mostly coming from the Goulburn Valley and Southern Victoria.  For Victoria over the past 10 years, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures and shown in the table below, the trend has been towards producing greater volumes rather than moving towards  ‘other apples’.

While a large proportion of Australia’s apples are produced in the Goulburn Valley, the option for Goulburn Valley growers to grow club varieties is limited due to clubs opting to keep the proprietary varieties in their own select regions.  With the exception of Bravo™, which is making more headway, Goulburn Valley growers are typically planting high-coloured strains of Cripps Pink (marketed as Pink Lady) or Gala.  However, due to the volumes of these two varieties being planted in the Goulburn Valley, other regions are then inadvertently forced into a situation where they may be better off to plant alternative varieties – often club apples offering higher returns but arguably riskier prospects.

Variety mixes will always continue to be in flux. However with the trend away from older varieties and new ones on their way, it reflects some big wagers under way.  Victoria has the lowest proportion of total production in  ‘other apples’ of all the states at just five per cent.  While Victoria still accounts for the highest production, it is the proportion of production that is attributed to  ‘other apples’ which is significant.  By comparison, as shown in the below table, levels in New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania are much higher.  According to the estimate,  ‘other apples’ will continue to increase as new plantings reach full production, but to what extent this will be over the longer term is up to the individual clubs.

ABS production figures show that since 2006 Australian apple production has increased by 12 per cent, during which time Victoria has lifted apple production by 29,298t or 28 per cent. During the same time South Australia increased 37 per cent and Queensland by 44 per cent.  Other states have declined, with New South Wales down most significantly by 29 per cent, followed by Western Australia declining six per cent and Tasmania down three per cent.

Table: Comparison of states in production changes and proportion of variety mix as clubs.

State2006-16Numerical Change in Production (tonnes)*2006-16Change in Production*Proportion of Variety Mix in Other Apples**
Victoria29,29828pc5pc
New South Wales-15,028-29pc13pc
Tasmania-1,464-4pc20pc
Western Australia-1,780-5pc17pc
South Australia9,70037pc17c
Queensland11,14744pc8pc
Australia31,84712pc10pc

*Australia Bureau of Statistics data;

**Apple and Pear Crop Estimate 2018

Pear crop up 14 per cent

Over 90 per cent of Australia’s pears are produced in Victoria, with most of the production in the Goulburn Valley.  According to the crop estimate, the gross pear crop will be 116,141t, representing a 14 per cent increase overall, and incorporating a 20 per cent increase in Class 1 packouts.  The important factor contributing to the pear result is the full crop of Packham and Buerré Bosc pears compared with last year.

The cropping levels of Williams bon chrétien (WBC) are reported to be similar to last year, but due to the effects of hail the Class 1 packout is expected to be down 27 per cent.  Despite this isolated hail event, growers have been encouraged by growing conditions favourable for producing high-quality pears.

Regional results

For South Australia this result reflects two successive years of smaller crops.  While this 2018 year is significantly worse,  Adelaide Hills growers also experienced a poor 2017 season due to poor fruit set as a result of wet weather during flowering as well as dimple bug pressure which affected packout results.

Despite the recent two years being poor, according to ABS figures for the period of 2006 and 2016, South Australian apple production increased by 37 per cent.  Due to new varieties and production practices of the Adelaide Hills growers we may see South Australia as a region over the next few years make some major increases in production.

In northern Victoria the apple crop is performing well,  despite some recent heatwaves, with the expectation being Granny Smith volumes will be down.  Southern Victoria is also performing well across most varieties except Fuji which is experiencing an “off” year due to its biennial-bearing cycle.

In Orange the crop is expected to be considerably lower due to poor fruit setting in spring and dry conditions, along with a continual trend of block removals in the region.  In Batlow the crop is only slightly down, attributable to hail and block removal.  Due to orchard redevelopment over the next few years the Batlow crop may also see an increase in production.

Queensland is also expecting a slightly-reduced crop compared with 2017, largely due to large crops the previous year.  The hail in the region had minimal impact because most growers use hail net.

Western Australia is variable but poor winter chill, flowering and fruit set has meant production will be slightly down to steady overall.  The effects of the low winter chill impacted the Donnybrook growing region, whereas Manjimup crops set well.

In Tasmania new plantings of Scifresh (marketed as Jazz™)  and Scilate (marketed as Envy™) which fall under ‘other apples’ are reported as coming into production and have resulted in the crop being up this year.

A copy of the crop estimate report is available on request by contacting acrawford@apal.org.au.

Acknowledgements:

AgFirst would like to thank the numerous growers and groups for their assistance in the generation of the 2018 Crop Estimate.  Adam Coleman, Michael Crisera, Susie Green, Paul James, Matt McMahon, Susie Murphy-White, Anna Steinhauser, Stephen Tancred, and Marcel Veens who supported in data collection and providing region-specific information.

The Apple and Pear Crop Estimate (AP16002) is a strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Apple and Pear Fund. It is funded by Hort Innovation and delivered by AgFirst  using the apple and pear research and development levy and funds from the Australian Government.

 

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