(Jan. 14) New Zealand’s apple producers should produce a bigger crop this year, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

The report said Dec. 31 that New Zealand apple exports in 2004 should grow 7%, to 20 million cartons or 350,000 metric tons. Some 3 million cartons could come to the U.S. market, based on last year’s distribution pattern.

New Zealand’s apple harvest begins in the second week of February and ends by early May.

The country’s leading varieties are royal gala and braeburn, which represent 40% and 34%, respectively, of the country’s exports in 2003 season, the report said.

Only light frost and hail damage have been noted in growing regions so far, and that should allow total apple production to increase to 506,000 metric tons, of which 65% of the crop will be shipped to international markets.

Exporters in New Zealand expect shipments to the U.S. to increase in 2004 because of reduced holdings in the U.S.