China pays top prices for kiwifruit
Zespri is on track to post record sales to China of $505 million to the end of the financial year in June and expects turnover to double in four years’ time.
With prices as high as $3.30 for one ‘‘jumbo’’ sized kiwifruit – at 150 grams not the size that Kiwis get to buy in their stores – China is viewed as a high value, premium market that is growing fast on the back of a rapidly rising middle class.
The 2018-19 season kicked off with the first shipment of the fruit branded with the Chinese name for Zespri of ‘‘Jiapei’’ arriving from Tauranga earlier this month. These were the vanguard of a likely 25 per cent increase on last year, to a projected 25 million plus trays grown in New Zealand alone.
Zespri trade development executive based in Shanghai Cerie Zhu said seven chartered vessels were due to unload New Zealand-grown kiwifruit in Shanghai this year. The first two had been processed to consumers eager to buy the soughtafter fruit, after a shortfall in Europe following a poor growing season. The final cargo will arrive by the end of next month.
Shanghai fruit seller Dai Gui Jun said customers had been asking for a few weeks when the first fruit from New Zealand would arrive.
Zespri’s main offices are in Shanghai and Beijing, with regional representation in Guangzhou, Xian and Chongqing. These regional offices provide more support for distribution partners and retail customers in the regions.
Zhu oversees the arrival of the fruit into the country, liaising with logistics giant Swire, which keeps supplies in a state-of-the-art coolstore near the port of Shanghai.
General manager for Greater China, Holly Brown, said there were now some world class facilities in some cities, especially those described as ‘‘tier one’’ such as Shanghai and Beijing, but elsewhere it was quite fragmented.
‘‘As you move into tier two, three and four it wouldn’t look like what you see in the tier one cities. That’s why Zespri partners with some pretty big players which allows us great confidence that our fruit and the cool chain integrity will be preserved all the way through.’’
Zespri was working with distribution partners to expand programmes in mainly tier two cities – Shenyang, Dalian, Qingdao, Zhengzhou, Xian, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Chongqing, Chengdu, Nanjing, Wuxi, Suzhou and Hangzhou. It was taking over packing, quality checking and repacking in these cities.
Brown said demand was well ahead of supply. Despite the fact China was the world’s largest kiwifruit grower, Zespri’s products commanded high prices.
‘‘We hope not only to make it more accessible but also more consistent in its pricing. You can see very aggressive price positioning in e-commerce where consumer loyalty is different, and compare that with a high end retailer targeting a par- ticular demographic – it can be quite different. There’s also a seasonal factor that comes into play.’’
This year the seasonal factor has ironically assisted Zespri. Its European contractors had a poor season in 2017, so there is pent up demand for kiwifruit in the northern hemisphere for New Zealand fruit, where production held up despite variable weather.
Brown said after selling in China for more than 15 years, Zespri’s brand recognition was high. The 58-strong sales team was supported by marketing investment of more than $30 million to support its position as a leading fruit brand in China.
New Zealand kiwifruit in China attracts prices as high as $.30 each.