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The kiwi market is currently seeing a seasonal switch. The campaign in northern Europe is coming to an end in the coming weeks, while in the southern hemisphere the harvest is starting slowly. Looking back, Greek exporters are enthusiastic about the season, as they have been taking advantage from the gap left in the market by Italy, its biggest competitor, which has had a smaller production. Logically, the mood in Italy is less enthusiastic, although the sector hopes for a good end of the season. The country will be able to continue supplying for longer than Greece, which the Italians want to benefit from. Spain saw an increase in the harvest and also benefited from the smaller volumes in other parts of Europe. For its part, New Zealand expects another record year in terms of volume, which will also be reflected in exports. The first shipments are now en route to Asian markets. In Latin America, a lot of work is being done to improve the fruit's quality. Chile is pursuing this goal with the introduction of new standards.

Will the volume be record-breaking again in New Zealand?
The summer has been hot and relatively cloudy in New Zealand. It appears new records will be achieved again this year. According to Zespri, the volume of green kiwis is rising and a total of 7 to 10 million more SunGold trays are expected. This means that a record volume is expected. The total production is estimated at around 20 million trays, or 70,000 tonnes, which is higher than last year's. The harvest of the SunGold is in full swing and kicked off a week earlier than last year. The first shipments with kiwis are on their way to China and Japan and are expected to arrive next week. Solid growth figures are expected in both markets. Moreover, the sector is working to grow in other parts of Asia, but also in Europe and North America, where the supply and the demand were not in balance last year.

Chile working to improve quality
The Chilean Kiwi Committee expects exports to reach 180,000 tonnes this year; 3% more than last year. The sector is committed to improving the quality and results of the growers. New guidelines on ripeness have been drawn up to this end. There should also be less haste with the harvest in order to better respond to temporary changes. It is crucial to convince growers that good quality has to be delivered, because that is the only way to get consumers to come back for more of your product, says the committee.

Up to week 13, exports stood at 5,918 tonnes, which is 62% less than in the same week a year earlier and 19% less than in 2016. The Hayward variety accounts for 73% of all exports, Simmer Kiwi represent 17% of the total and the remaining 10% corresponds to the Green Light, Soreli, Sweet Kiwi and Jintao. The smaller volume could be the result of the new harvest standards. Furthermore, 2017 was characterised by an early start of the harvest. The current season is following a more traditional pattern.

Click here to read a recent report from the Chilean Kiwifruit Committee

Argentina: Harvesting or waiting?
Although the harvest has already started in some parts of the country, there are also areas where the first kiwis are picked at the end of April. "Our goal is to harvest the kiwis at the right time; quality and taste are our main priority," says a grower, who will still be waiting for a while. The season for him will last until the end of October. He only grows the Hayward. The grower expects a 20% growth in terms of volume compared to the previous year. In 2017, he exported some small volumes to Europe.

South Africa: More room for imports
The season has just started with great volumes of large calibre fruits for the supermarkets. A grower says that they reach between 100 and 115 grams each. On the markets, the calibres are smaller. The domestic production has declined in recent years, although the yellow varieties do show an upward trend. As a result, more kiwis are imported from countries like Italy, France and Greece. The demand is stable. The Hayward is the most popular variety among consumers and is also the most cultivated. The price paid for yellow kiwifruit is higher than that of the green one, despite the fact that the yellow kiwis are disappointing in terms of shelf life, according to a trader.

Most of the plantations are located in Haenertsburg, Limpopo. There are also some growers in the Western Cape, but the clash between kiwifruit and hard fruit crops in that area is not favourable for the sector. Other growing areas are KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and other parts of Limpopo. The harvest season lasts from August to September.

US: Seasonal transition from Europe to South America
The market is in a transitional stage. The supply of kiwis from Italy and Greece has fallen slightly, while the first kiwis from Chile are arriving in the ports. The import season lasts until the start of the Californian campaign, which starts in the second half of September. The arrival of Chilean kiwis has been delayed by two weeks this year compared to last year, mainly due to the weather conditions.

Demand for kiwis is stable and is expected to remain stable until the first week of June. Then the school holiday starts and the market shrinks by 25 to 40%. At the end of August, when the school year begins, the demand starts going up again.

Israeli growers lose import
The season is as good as over. Currently, the largest part, if not all, of the supply in supermarkets is imported. The harvest started in October, but was affected by various factors, including warm weather in the winter months, which took a toll on the fruit's quality and led to smaller volumes being available.

The demand for kiwis remains stable year-round, as consumers don't have a preference when it comes to choosing between imports or local products. As a result, a lower quality results in higher prices for domestic kiwis, and buyers then simply go for imports. In recent years, the weather in the winter months has not been favourable for the growers; consequently, Israeli kiwi growers have achieved moderate results and the acreage has remained stable at 200 hectares.

Historically, green kiwis are dominant, with the Hayward and Bruno as the most popular varieties among domestic producers. This year, the yellow variety Jintao was introduced. The Italian variety has adapted well to the climate and is grown in the north of the country.

Greece finishes spectacular campaign
With the end of the season in sight, a trader describes the past few months as "spectacular." "It has been a 'once in a lifetime' type of season," she says. Due to shortages in Italy, there has been a lot of demand, so prices have been good. The trader explains that they have faced no problems this season, so sales have probably increased sharply compared to last year. "This situation has allowed us to grow in new markets, such as Asia and Latin America," says the trader.

Competition between Italy and Greece is always fierce, but the Greek kiwis tend to gain a stronger foothold. According to the exporter, it is especially important to make the export markets familiar with the Greek kiwis. Traditionally, Greek kiwis have the reputation of being cheaper, but the sector is making a great effort to create added value and to focus on quality and sustainability. Greece is also seeing a growing demand for the yellow kiwis. They are investing in new varieties to be able to offer this product, as well. Exporters certainly see good opportunities in Asia.

Italy hopes for good season
The demand for kiwis has increased in recent weeks. A trader tells us that the season lasts until the end of May. "The big retailers have recently been launching a number of promotions," says a trader. This is bringing kiwis to the spotlight. The upturn in the kiwi market is caused by the autumnal weather this spring. Also, few apples are available and strawberry producers have faced some difficulties.

"The fruit from New Zealand will arrive with a 15 day delay, making the season more interesting." Greek kiwis have been on the market for longer than usual and have been putting pressure on the market for the Italian exporters. An exporter of yellow kiwis says that it has been an "excellent" season for the yellow kiwis.

Spain takes advantage of European shortages
The harvest of Spanish kiwifruit started in November and the campaign will end at the end of May with the final sales. Some importers will then switch to Zespri kiwis, whilst others will import from Chile. The first volumes of Chilean kiwis will arrive at the end of May, and they expect maybe fruit with lower dry matter levels, although the quality will still be good. Unlike the rest of Europe, Spain has had a bigger kiwi harvest this year (10% greater), and smaller sizes in general. Despite the higher prices of Spanish kiwis (due to the lower production in Europe), sales haven't been difficult for any kind of size, according to the biggest producer in Spain, mostly thanks to the high quality and ideal dry matter levels. Although Spanish kiwis are a bit more expensive, Spanish retailers are demanding more and more local product, as it is better ripened on the tree. This trend was started by Mercadona and many other chains followed. 

The most grown green variety is the Hayward and the Summer has finally disappeared, as the calibres were too small and the yields too low. The most common yellow varieties are the Jintao, Exagold and Sorelli. The main growing areas in Spain have been traditionally located in the north (Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria) and their productions have been growing slowly. Nevertheless, the production has also increased this year in Valencia and Catalonia, where growers are cultivating kiwis as an alternative to citrus and kakis in Valencia, and to stone fruit in Catalonia. The disadvantage of growing in Valencia is the unstable temperatures, which can take a toll on the volumes and quality. However they see big opportunities for the yellow kiwi, as unlike in the north of Spain, the PSA bacterium has never appeared in this region because the temperatures are milder. In Catalonia, the main hurdle for kiwi growers is the greater risk of frosts and the higher PH levels in the soil, which causes the kiwis to have a harder "white part."

French consumption is going up
A French trader with both French and South American production explains that the French campaign lasts until the end of April. "The volumes were slightly smaller than last year. As far as sizes and quality were concerned, it was a very normal season and we are satisfied." The South American production will arrive this week. In mid-May, these kiwis will hit the European and North American markets. "We can supply our customers all year round, as we are able to continue selling French kiwis until the Southern Hemisphere harvest arrives." Consumption is going up in France. According to the trader, this is because kiwis are rich in vitamins and do not contain as many plant protection products as some other fruits. This is a very important aspect for consumers in France.

German market stable
The Italian kiwis still dominate the German market, followed at a reasonable distance by the Greek, French and Turkish productions. Traders confirm that the market conditions are stable, with a balanced demand and supply. Prices are also stable, although the difference with the prices recorded in 2017 is noteworthy. On the wholesale markets, it can be of up to 20 to 30 percent.

According to the traders, it will still take a little while before the kiwis from overseas producers become available. Chilean fruit is not expected to hit the shelves until mid-May at the earliest. The same applies to Australian varieties in the usual calibres 27 (115-125g), 30 (105-115g) and 36 (85-95g). The Australian fruits are becoming increasingly popular anyway, mostly due to some good cooperation between German trading companies and Australian producers. The market share of the Gold kiwi is particularly remarkable. Importers praise the quality of the fruit when it comes to sugar content, consistency and homogeneity.

The Netherlands and Belgium: Kiwi supply exhausted
The European stock of kiwis has been exhausted. In France there is almost nothing left, and in Italy there is only a little bit over. The kiwis from New Zealand are expected to arrive in week 19, around 11 May. Kiwis could thus become a hot item over the next three weeks, as there is a lot of demand and little supply. The New Zealand kiwi will be well-received because the market is completely empty. The prices for the French and Italian kiwis were historically high this season. Prices were on average 25% higher than in recent years due to the high demand and a small supply. As a result of the climatic conditions, the Italian and French harvest was 20% lower than in the previous 10 years. The demand remained stable and there was 20% less supply, so the prices were sky high.

The quality of the fruit was exceptionally good. Rarely or never in the last 30 years has it been as good as this season. French kiwis suffered no losses and had a good shelf life and high sugar content. The yellow kiwi is a more sensitive product and has barely been available for 2 months. The New Zealand kiwi will be well-received in week 19. The question is, however, where the first New Zealand shipments will be sent, as the number of Zespri distributors in Belgium will be expanded this year from two (Superfruit and Van Dijck) to four, with the addition of Deroeck and Greenyard.
Chinese volumes have grown. Is this reflected in prices?
The season lasts from August to February. The Chinese market is developing quickly. Steps have been taken to improve both the volume and the quality. Plantations are traditionally to be found in Shaanxi, Guizhou and Sichuan, where the acreages have expanded. Some analysts expect the volume to double by 2020.

Due to the increasing volume, the prices are under pressure. More and more growers and packers are seeking to differentiate themselves with a label or an alternative variety. If that trend continues, the price for the premium products could rise. In the meantime, the first kiwis from New Zealand are arriving and Chile is also coming to the market. The Italian kiwis are expected again in the autumn.

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