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Simon Limmer, General Manager Grower & Government Relations Manager China for Zespri
NZ: "20-40% increase in Gold production is a real sign that we are coming out of the crisis.”The New Zealand kiwi harvest will soon be underway. Simon Limmer, General Manager Grower & Government Relations Manager China for Zespri explains that crops in general in New Zealand are earlier this year, “We expect to start the harvest in March, but it may be earlier. Last year was warm and dry which was great for reducing the cases of PSA, this year has also been sunny and warm but with a bit more rain which has been great for growing conditions. Not quite so good in terms of PSA.”
Photo: Simon Limmer, General Manager Grower & Government Relations Manager China for Zespri
According to the initial crop estimate volumes will be well up on last year. But it's still a bit early to tell. “After three years of decline due to PSA, the volumes of gold kiwis are at last increasing. From volumes of 30 million we went as low as 11 million in 2013, this season we are expecting an increase of 20-40%.”
This is of course Zespri’s new Gold 3 variety, 80% of New Zealand growers have now transitioned to the G3, some of the green kiwi growers have also gone over to the G3 variety, Simon explains that production of green and gold kiwis is now more balanced. “Many growers took a big gamble, changing to G3 was a big step which seems to be going well so far. The variety’s resistance to PSA is looking good but not complete but a 20-40% increase in Gold production is a real sign that we are coming out of the crisis.”
“There are 13,000 acres of kiwi orchards in New Zealand, in November 2010 we saw week after week of new cases this is now down to very few new cases being reported. There are some areas which are quite isolated and have not yet been affected but it may still happen. In general people are learning to live with PSA.”
Photo: Zespri Green grower Dennis Robinson from Te Puke, the heart of New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry.
Zespri’s core markets are Europe, East Asia (Japan, Korea and Taiwan),with China and South East Asia being the significant growth markets. “We are seeing a surplus of demand in the market just now and need to ensure we service our traditional markets as well as the growth markets and have sufficient demand for the emerging markets such as South America,” explains Simon. “In 2016 there will be a huge increase in Gold volumes as post PSA production reaches high levels, this should be enough to cover demand.”
Currently Zespri grows less that 10% of its kiwis outside New Zealand. The gold orchards in Italy and France have been decimated by PSA since 2009, growers are grafting G3 on to the vines and recovery is in progress. Japan and Korea have suffered to a lesser extent than Europe. Simon said that production of Zespri Green Kiwifruit in Europe is going strong and the market for them has been positive.
Zespri are not growing as yet in China, but Simon says they are looking very carefully into the prospect. The company already has offices in Shanghai and an expansion plan for China. They are currently working with partners to understand the Chinese market, “We need to understand what is happening, the evolution of supermarkets, the wholesale markets, the consumers. We need to become more Chinese, while at the same time retaining our own culture and values.”
China with a population of 1.3 billion is a huge market, “Chinese people are very diverse and are evolving very quickly. Their focus on food safety and quality is big and they are increasingly looking for premium brands and shop regularly. The new Chinese supermarkets are world class with top produce from around the globe.”
China produces around 50% of the world’s kiwi most of which is not of export quality and goes to the domestic market. “We are watching closely to see which areas are best for kiwi production. After years of PSA we can again positively invest in the industry, we are now looking at the next five years of growth. Opportunities in China, the Middle East and South America look phenomenal! But first we need to understand what these markets are looking for.”
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