Europe is harvesting fewer kiwifruits this season. Italy and Spain report considerable losses. By contrast, Greece claims to have had a good season. It is these countries that dominate the market, along with France. Later, Chile and New Zealand will follow. The former expects an early start, while the latter is waiting to evaluate the consequences of the extreme weather. In the meantime, China is a permanent growth market for exporters. California is optimistic. The harvest is slightly larger and prices are stable.
New Zealand: Weather makes season challenging
It was too hot in the Tauranga region, in the north of the northern island. In 2016, the average temperature increased. The number of hours of sunshine, however, was disappointing, as was the rainfall. Spring was difficult for the growers, especially for those around Pukehina, who struggled with drought. They are hoping for more rain.
Last year, the Hayward production reached 92.6 million trays, while the organic Hayward stood at 3.94 million trays. Moreover, there were 46.8 million trays of SunGold. In the field of exports, there is rising demand from China. Last year, Zespri exported 50% more fruit to this market. These growth rates are not exceptional. In recent years, the Chinese market has been growing by 20 to 30% per year. The demand for the SunGold is also doing well. The Japanese market, traditionally the cornerstone of exports, also showed growth. In general terms, there was growth in most South East Asian markets, including South Korea and Taiwan.
Iranian kiwifruit for India
The supply from Iran has come to a halt. Iran's season runs from July to December. An Indian trader says they are satisfied with the Iranian kiwis. The quality and price have been good, as was the demand. The kiwis were cheaper than those supplied by Greece and Italy. The Greek kiwifruit has now hit the market. As of March, the Chilean and Italian kiwis will follow.
Chinese demand on the rise
Demand for New Zealand kiwifruit remains high despite the country's disappointing economic figures. Last year, there was a 50% increase in the volume of Zespri kiwis imported.
California optimistic about season
This year's kiwifruit supply from California is better than in the previous campaign. The harvest has actually been greater, although the calibres are a bit bigger. In Central California, more and more growers are switching to kiwi cultivation; therefore, the acreage is expanding. California accounts for 95% of all kiwis grown in the US. There are about 170 growers with a total of nearly 1,500 hectares. The production in the 2016 season stood at 8 million trays. This is a sharp increase compared with the 6 million trays of 2015. The bulk of the production consists of Hayward, and there are some smaller volumes of other green and gold varieties.
Conditions in the kiwifruit market are currently good, with stable prices. However, in the coming weeks, competition from other countries may make things more difficult. Competitors include Chile, New Zealand, Italy, France, Greece and the Middle East. Transport costs vary depending on the market. The shipment of Italian kiwis to the US east coast is cheaper than transporting them from the west coast to the east coast.
Kiwis, a niche in Israel
In Israel, kiwifruit is perceived as a niche product. This applies to both the production and the consumption. When in season, the fruit is available in supermarkets. There is year-round supply mainly in large supermarkets in cities and specialty stores. New Zealand is the main supplier of these kiwis.
The country has about 200 hectares of kiwifruit orchards. Their cultivation concentrates in the far north of the country. In order to grow kiwis, you need low temperatures, so their cultivation is only possible in the higher regions of Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights. Moreover, sufficient water resources are required. Despite these limitations, 60 growers produce about 6,000 tonnes per year. The Hayward is the most popular variety, accounting for 80% of the production, followed by the Bruno.
Due to this small-scale farming, prices in Israel are high. Earlier this year, they reached up to 3 Euro per kilo. Due to the low demand, prices are stable, except in the autumn, when the local production hits the market.
Italian volume drops
The season has been reaching its peak since Christmas. The situation at the start was better than last year, partly because of the smaller volume available. Production fell by 22% and sales were not bad in the first months. Most of the fruit was intended for export by sea.
Although the acreage in Piedmont grew by 1%, the volume was 11% lower than last year. Hail damage took a toll on the yield. The market is slow, and despite the lower supply, demand is not increasing. That is also because prices have risen. Given that the harvest has been lower in many European countries, there are exporters who are cautious about selling and are speculating on the possibility of higher prices.
In Veneto and Verona the yield has decreased significantly. The acreage was reduced by 22% compared to 2015 and the marketable volumes decreased by 14%. In Emilia Romagna, the acreage remained stable, but the volume fell by 19% due to a lower yield. In late December, there was 26% less fruit in storage, according to a trader.
Due to the downward trend in prices, caused by Greek and New Zealand exporters, Italian producers are looking beyond their borders. Export markets include Taiwan, China, Australia, Brazil, the US and Canada. The Asian and Australian market have a good demand for large volumes. Within Europe, the demand from the UK, Scandinavia and Germany is on the rise.
Lazio recorded a 34% loss in volume due to a lower yield. That loss has only been partly offset by the 5% growth in the acreage. Although the prices are good, an exporter explained that they are in no hurry to sell. There is still Greek kiwifruit available and the exporter hopes for an improvement of the market conditions when Greek shipments stop. Losses of around 30% have been reported in Calabria, Campania and Basilicata, where the acreage is still growing.
In total, production in 2016 amounted to 448.000 tonnes, out of which 29,500 tonnes were Gold (+29% compared to 2015). The remaining volumes corresponded to green varieties, which recorded a 24% fall.
Large volumes in Greece
There is plenty of kiwifruit in storage, according to a trader. There is great demand for the fruit from many countries. The quality of the kiwis is lower this season. European countries often prefer to buy Greek kiwifruit because of the lower price. Greece continues to invest in expanding the kiwi cultivation and, with the loss of Russia, the country is becoming a serious player in the European market. In March, the season will be approaching its end and in this period prices will be expected to increase.
Lower production in Spain
The current season has been marked by a 20% decrease in volume. While 15 million kilos are usually harvested in a normal year, this season's production stands at 12 million kilos. Consumption is around 90,000 tonnes per year, so the local production is complemented by imports from Italy, France, Greece and Portugal.
Compared to last season, the calibres available are larger. Consequently, the prices for the smaller sizes have increased by 40 to 50%. The middle sizes yield 10 to 15% more. Because of the higher prices, consumption has fallen, but because of the smaller volume traders are not concerned.
French season started well
The Oscar kiwifruit season kicked off two months ago and will last for four months. A trader says they are satisfied with the start of the season. December was not a peak month, because Zespri was still bringing large volumes into the market. The season started ten days later than usual because the fruit's Brix levels were disappointing. Because of this delay, the season will last a little longer than normal. The French try to sell the kiwis in the premium market. In recent years, the Greeks have been exporting at low prices. Exports to the US are not attractive because of the pricing. Other export markets outside Europe include Vietnam, China and South Korea.
Netherlands: Low demand for kiwis, but price remains stable
Dutch importers point out that there are not too many kiwis available. In general terms, the Greek kiwifruit is preferred to the Italian, simply because they are cheaper. Re-exports from the Netherlands are mainly focused on Eastern Europe. Just before Christmas, there were concerns about a possible scarcity, because the Greeks were unable to make shipments due to the strikes, but the issue has been solved. The demand is currently disappointing, but nevertheless, the price remains at a reasonable level, with a rate of 9 to 10.50 Euro for the large sizes. This level is expected to stabilise at the end of the season, in mid-May.
Belgium: Smooth import season for Zespri
The New Zealand season is over. Zespri's fruit is completely sold out. "Traders are now selling the last stocks, but these will be really small. We have seamlessly made the transition to the European green kiwifruit season and will focus fully on it in the coming months." The volumes are expected to be similar to last year's.
The European SunGold season, which has gone really well, is now already over. "We also had a good transition between the two seasons and we see that trust in the Sungold is very high in the market. Everyone is already positively looking forward to the next New Zealand season, which should start in late April." Although the company is satisfied with the results, it would have been even happier with a slightly higher SunGold production.
Chile expects early start
The season started later than usual. Due to the larger volumes on the European market, exporters looked to other destinations. Normally, 50% of the production is intended for the European market, but this season only 37% reached this destination. China is a growing market, with a 154% increase. The season will kick off in mid-March, which is earlier than normal, and the production volume is expected to remain stable.
Argentina wants to export
The kiwifruit acreage continues to grow in Argentina. Growers see great potential in this market. For now, the production is intended for the domestic market, but growers have export plans for the future. The recent weather changes have been good for the fruit.