(Nov. 21) NELSON, New Zealand — Three mid-November hailstorms have wiped out an estimated one million 40-pound cartons of New Zealand’s apple crop, possibly affecting the 2003 volumes of the leading importer of the island nation’s apples and pears into the U.S.

The David Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, imported more than two million cartons of New Zealand apples and pears from March through October 2002. Oppenheimer buys the apples and pears from Enza Ltd., Auckland, and the Fresh Fruit Co. of New Zealand Ltd., Auckland.

David Nelley, Oppenheimer’s apple and pear category director, declined to speculate how the most devastating storm on Nov. 17 would alter next year’s imports.

“Last Sunday’s hail in Nelson will likely affect the total 2003 New Zealand apple volume to some degree, though it is currently too early to definitively estimate the impact of the weather or to comment on any influence it could have on the North American market next spring,” Nelley said.

Immediately after the latest storm, growers were working with marketer Enza to determine prices for hail-damaged fruit sent to a juice factory. A local newspaper, The Nelson Mail, reported that Enza was waiting for information on the extent of the damage before announcing plans for the season.

Growers in the Nelson region exported 6.7 million cartons of apples in 2001 of a total of 18.2 million cartons exported from New Zealand that year, according to the Horticulture and Food Research Institute of New Zealand.