Ki­wifruit ex­porter is on a roll

Ze­spri is on a win­ning streak, its CEO warns of head­winds ahead

Hawke's Bay Today - - Digest - An­drea Fox

More land with easy ac­cess to wa­ter is high on Ze­spri’s wish­list as the blue chip na­tional ki­wifruit ex­port mar­keter con­tin­ues its win­ning streak with record har­vests and sales.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Dan Mathieson said while the com­pany is on a roll there were head­winds ahead. These in­clude biose­cu­rity risks and an acute labour short­age with more land to meet the world’s ap­petite for new Ze­spri gold fruit va­ri­ety Sungold.

The in­dus­try was par­tic­u­larly fo­cused on the need for wa­ter re­sources as it grows, he said.

The 2018 ki­wifruit har­vest is draw­ing to a close with “ev­ery­thing in a box” by June 25, he said.

“The qual­ity is re­ally good and the taste of green (fruit) is the best in four or five years.”

Mathieson at­trib­uted the bumper har­vest to good grow­ing con­di­tions and grow­ers’ hard work in the or­chards, in­clud­ing en­sur­ing fruit was ex­posed to light.

Ex­port sales of green fruit were, to date, two mil­lion trays ahead of last sea­son, and Sungold sales 10 mil­lion trays ahead.

In the or­chards, 10 mil­lion more trays had been har­vested than last year and green fruit trays were likely to sur­pass this in­crease. In to­tal 66 mil­lion trays of Sungold would be har­vested with green fruit in the high 70 mil­lions, Mathieson said.

“All mar­kets are do­ing well. A lot more Sungold is go­ing into Europe and an­other non-tra­di­tional mar­ket do­ing well is the USA.”

Ze­spri had com­mit­ted to plant 700 more hectares of Sungold fruit ev­ery year for the next five years, com­pared to 400ha a year pre­vi­ously, Mathieson said. While the cap­i­tal of the ki­wifruit in­dus­try was the Bay of Plenty, Sungold fruit, which re­placed the Hort16A gold va­ri­ety wiped out by the sec­tor’s dev­as­tat­ing Psa dis­ease hit sev­eral years ago, was do­ing very well in other re­gions, he said.

The in­dus­try em­ployed 18,000 peo­ple cur­rently and by 2030 was tipped to need 29,000.

Skills would be needed at all lev­els of the in­dus­try and Ze­spri was keen to ex­pand its re­la­tion­ships uni­ver­si­ties, Mathieson said. It had a good re­la­tion­ship with Massey Univer­sity but need to foster more.

In­ter­est from po­ten­tial new in­dus­try en­trants was strong with Maori groups keen to ex­pand their port­fo­lios.

Ze­spri’s strat­egy was to be able to of­fer the “world’s best ki­wifruit” to mar­kets 12 months of the year through New Zealand-grown fruit and non-New Zealand sup­ply.

Photo / Dan Mathieson

Ze­spri boss Dan Mathieson said the in­dus­try was fo­cused on the need for wa­ter re­sources.

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