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The Southern Hemisphere has taken over the kiwi supply as their harvesting has begun. For South Africans, it seems to be a difficult campaign. The campaign in New Zealand finally seems to be more positive after multiple years of challenges being thrown at the growers and exporters.

Looking at the kiwi supply in Europe, Italy had the lowest yield for green kiwis in history, while the Portuguese kiwi season is expected to run until the end of June. The season is also wrapping up for California in the US, so the imports will play a key role in the months to come.

South Africa: Difficult campaign for yellow kiwi growers
The South African kiwi season now coming to an end was a tale of two halves: a difficult campaign for yellow kiwi growers from the summer rainfall areas because of a fungal disease that "all of a sudden reared its head", says a kiwi grower, leading to a high rate of rejections. Certain varieties harvested during hot and humid conditions in February and March were almost "wiped out" this year; the University of Pretoria has been investigating the disease for a couple of years and growers are anxiously awaiting the research results. For growers in the winter rainfall areas, where the last containers have just been loaded, it was an excellent season according to one grower, while another remarks that the export kiwi market feels very full when New Zealand enters.

"We had a more challenging season than other years, but it remains clear that there is still a gap in the market on yellow kiwis between Northern and Southern Hemisphere production. If you produce for that gap you can get relatively good prices but when other Southern Hemisphere roleplayers come onto the market, prices fall drastically and we get a lot of pressure from the market," says an exporter. "When New Zealand comes on the market with yellow kiwis, it feels oversaturated, but before them the market feels undersupplied."

A small number of South African red kiwis have also been marketed this year, most by sea freight, with good arrivals. Industry says that better market access - specifically to the Far East - would help immeasurably to build the South African kiwi industry. In the meantime, a Southern Hemisphere competitor like Chile has access to the "very lucrative" South Korean market, which potentially lessens pressure for South Africa in Europe. Locally, prices for traditional green kiwis (still favoured by domestic consumers) climbed to great heights with the reduction in plantings of the Hayward variety.

Italy: Lowest green kiwi yield in history
A very unusual campaign for the Italian green kiwi. According to the manager of a large trade group in northern Italy, 2023 was the year with the lowest green kiwi yield in Italy's history. This favoured other competitors, such as Greece, which became the leading producer in Europe. The average price has been very high since the beginning of the campaign last autumn. A further price increase occurred from mid-March to mid-May, when stocks of Italian green kiwi fruit were exhausted or almost exhausted.

The reasons for the shortage of green kiwi fruit are the frosts in 2023 and excessive rainfall followed by long periods of drought. A lack of new planting is also reducing availability, as many growers replace green kiwi fruit with yellow-fleshed varieties. According to GfK Consumer Panel Services, 44% of Italian households bought kiwis in the year ending March 2024, down from over 48% two years ago.

Germany: Import volume is subject to strong fluctuations
In 2022, the volume of kiwifruit imported into Germany was 99,080 tons. The import volume is subject to annual fluctuations. The most important supplier countries include Italy (43 per cent of all imports) and New Zealand. Kiwis are also currently experiencing a renaissance in cultivation in Greece. A German importer confirms that many producers are switching from asparagus to kiwifruit due to the huge cost increases. Furthermore, the Greek kiwi sector was able to benefit from the sharp drop in volumes in Italy last season, particularly in the early part of the season. "In general, it can be said that Italy continues to set the tone for yellow kiwifruit and Greece is now on a par in terms of export volume for green kiwifruit," says one importer, referring to the long-term development of German kiwifruit imports. The increasing presence of kiwifruit on the German market does not yet appear to have led to a downward trend in 'regular' kiwifruit, according to wholesalers.

New Zealand: Positive turn after four years of disruptions
The New Zealand kiwifruit sector is seeing a good harvest period, attributed to favorable weather conditions, quality is also said to be good. The Bay of Plenty has seen a continuous and smooth flow of fruit from orchard to pack house due to dry weather, marking a positive turn after four years of various disruptions. These disruptions included a record crop coinciding with a labor shortage two years ago, leading to poor picking practices, and operational challenges due to Covid-restrictions in the preceding years.

Despite this, concerns have arisen over Zespri's revised crop estimate, now at 180 million trays, down from an initial 195 million, including a record estimate for SunGold kiwifruit. The fast-tracked implementation of New Zealand's Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Union is a significant boost the kiwifruit industry this season. The NZ-EU FTA Legislation Bill came into force on May 1, 2024. Around 90% of Zespri's exports to Europe this season arrive after this.

One major disruption at the start of the New Zealand season was when over a million trays of New Zealand kiwifruit, found to have a mice problem on a ship, had to be destroyed. The issue was detected on Zespri's inaugural shipment to Europe for the season. Efforts to salvage the fruit were made, with 54 percent of the pallets examined.

Portugal: Season to continue until the end of June
As expected, there was an increase in demand after March. These are historically the busiest months and this year is no exception. This year, in particular, due to the smaller amount of fruit available in the Northern Hemisphere, it was possible to enter non-traditional markets. In the more traditional markets, such as Portugal, Spain and France, there was greater market pressure from potential new customers, as many of the other players were limited in the fruit available at this time of year.

The expectations for the remainder of the season are good, one exporter said: "We continue to have very good fruit, with good hardness for the season we are in. We hope to continue our season until the end of June. And we are already looking forward to the fruits we work with in the summer, where we highlight babykiwi (arguta), produced in the central region of Portugal. Then in September and October, the Red and Yellow kiwis and in November we'll work with the Green Kiwi again."

Netherlands: Demand for kiwis exceeds supply
The first Chilean kiwis have arrived on the Dutch market. "The quality is good, prices are high, but it is expected that things will stabilize somewhat in the coming weeks. Due to the high demand from the USA and Asia, as long as the quality remains good, I expect that demand will be higher than supply and that the high prices will remain," said an importer.

United States: California kiwi production starts wrapping up in North America
Kiwi supply is starting to wind down in California though those that remain in the marketplace will continue to ship Californian fruit until July 1st. After that, there will be a transition to Chilean imports. This year's Californian crop has been a medium-sized one with good quality and it was the right size for the industry to market.

Also shipping right now are kiwis from Southern Hemisphere countries including New Zealand. While those are largely the Gold kiwis, it also ships Hayward kiwis. Chile meanwhile is weighted more towards Hayward. California largely grows the green Hayward kiwis but is also moving towards growing its version of gold Kiwi and has already moved into red kiwis.

Demand for kiwi also looks as per usual–it has been consistent over the last few years. As for pricing, it has improved over the prior year which was needed given growing and shipping costs have increased by about 50 percent over the last four to five years.

China: Domestic product available until July, import season in full swing
There are still Chinese kiwis on the market. These now come from the cold stores. Some larger ones still have enough supply until July. In 2023, the production volume fell in some growing areas. This was due to the severe frost recorded in the spring of 2023, during the flowering period.

Since the beginning of January, quite a few imported kiwis have also come on the market. The most important import countries are Greece, Chile, Italy, Australia and New Zealand. The New Zealand season has started about 2 months ago. Zespri is a very popular kiwifruit brand in China.

The inaugural voyage of the season's Zespri kiwifruits refrigerated charter ship, named "Kowhai," embarked from the Port of Tauranga, New Zealand, on March 26. In less than 12 days, it successfully delivered approximately 2,100 tons of fresh Zespri kiwifruits to Nangang, Shanghai.

For the 2024 season, a total of 22 chartered ships loaded with Zespri kiwifruits are slated for supply to the Chinese market. The anticipated total volume is 193,000 tons, constituting 27% of Zespri's global market supply and securing its position as the leading supplier in a single-country market.

France: "Current demand is good"
The French campaign is coming to an end. Like last year, the market this year was slow, with high prices. The counter-season supply began over a month ago, with New Zealand arriving on the market as it does every year. "The current demand is good but nothing extraordinary", says an operator with prices between 4,80 and 5,60 euros per tray.

Belgium: Problems with supply of First Zespri kiwis
"There were some problems with the supply of the first Zespri kiwis, but everyone now has their supplies available," said a Belgian wholesaler. "It took some time to find large sizes in the yellow market, but sales are now going smoothly. The price is about the same as last year. The green kiwi has been started 2 weeks ago. However, the large sizes are limited. They just don't seem to be there, but nevertheless you can see that everyone is happy when the Zespri goods have arrived again. Especially if the sun would show itself a little more."

Next week's topic: Nectarines, peaches and paraguayos