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Michael Franks - Seeka

NZ: Good weather and increased packing capacity positive for kiwiberry harvest

New Zealand's kiwiberry harvest started late last week and harvest is going well while the weather holds. Kiwiberry grower and packer Seeka are about 20% through the harvest of between 90-100,000 trays.

"Volumes are well up on last year when we struggled due to bad weather," said Seeka CEO, Michael Franks. "Last year our harvest was interrupted by rain with nine days lost with continuous rain in the middle of the harvest. Limited packing capacity exacerbated the issue. This year the weather has been kinder, and we have built a new packing line which has significantly increased capacity. We were very lucky to have missed the ex-cyclone Gita which swept through the lower North Island and South Island creating wide spread destruction. The immediate forecast is good, but given we are in New Zealand, we do expect rain sometime soon."

This year bad weather will not have such an impact as Seeka have a new packing line in place. This means they can build up a buffer of a couple of days so they can keep packing even if the weather is bad.

"Last year we struggled on packing capacity meaning we could not build up a buffer. This year we have a new packing line and can build a nice buffer in case of bad weather, but we still won't go over two or three day's worth as that would compromise quality. Our new packing line is going extremely well and has tremendous capacity and so we are able to deliver a better harvest for our growers," said Franks.

"We are currently processing between 90 and 110 bins a day, but full capacity is around 120 -130 bins a day. It is a Compac cherry grader with In-Vision, a water plume and three punneting stations. At full capacity it can pack 100, 125g punnets per minute."

Seeka packs kiwiberries grown by other growers as well as their own fruit.

The Australian market is the main market with both wholesale and retail served, though some are sent the USA and France. Half of the fruit packed by Seeka is sold by FreshMax which has extensive markets throughout Asia.

"This year the kiwiberries are large and they have really good taste quality. We are only 20% through the season but you can already see that its a good crop. The first of the kiwiberries arrived in Australia yesterday and were in great condition and currently we are shipping all fruit as we pack it – we do not have any stock.
Demand is good and they are being well promoted by the retailers. They are positioned beside the berryfruit in the chilled section of fresh produce."

New Zealand kiwiberry is an alternative fruit for growers to grow, although it can be quite labour intensive, the yields can be fantastic and the returns high. The kiwiberry is also very Psa tolerant which is predominately why we planted it in the first place," said Franks.

He goes on to say that they have struggled in the last couple of years to deliver growers the right balance at harvest. A small machine with limited throughput meant that growers had to wait for harvest which was understandably frustrating when the weather turns bad. This season looks more positive, good capacity, great crop and good market response.

Looking forward to the kiwifruit season Franks says that the gold kiwifruit harvest will start in the next 2-3 weeks and the gold crop is looking good, with a nice size profile. The Hayward is looking like a nice clean crop and they are pretty excited by what they see.

For more information:
Michael Franks
Phone: +64 7573 0303


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