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Bert Barmans:

“We continue to strive for year-round SunGold production”

On 3 May, the first Zespri SunGold kiwi fruit arrived at the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium. This was the starting signal for the New Zealand kiwi fruit season. Expectations for the sales on the European market are positive.

Traditionally, the first Zespri kiwi fruit from New Zealand is available as of early May. With the arrival of the first SunGold on 3 May, followed by Green and Organic in week 20, the new season has now officially started. The new Zespri harvest is looking promising. “The circumstances during the growing period were good, which is to the benefit of yield,” says Bert Barmans, General Manager for Zespri Europe. “This results in good quality and flavour, as well as large sizing.”

The rise of SunGold continues
Zespri expects larger availability of both SunGold and Green this season. Estimates of the total production indicate about 20 million trays, or 70,000 tonnes, which is more than last year. A remarkable increase is predicted for SunGold in particular, which is favourable to the continued development of Zespri’s golden showpiece. New plantings combined with existing plants that are becoming increasingly more productive are probably going to lead to a record harvest once again. Bert: “Production increases every year, but not enough SunGold is available to meet increasing demand yet. Last year we had a short season. Fortunately this season’s yield is larger, and we expect to have more SunGold available for the European market. This gives us the confidence to be able to provide both existing and new customers with SunGold.”

About 14 million trays of Zespri SunGold will be shipped to Europe compared to 11 million in 2017. In total, Zespri expects 7 to 10 million trays of SunGold more compared to last season. A slight increase is expected for Zespri Green. The General Manager mentions a larger production of Green is very desirable, considering supply and demand weren’t balanced last season. “The harvest was somewhat disappointing then. After two seasons of an abnormally large production of Green, yield per hectare decreased considerably last year. This season, we once again expect to reach regular levels. It looks as if we can provide the requested volumes, and we’re also seeing potential in other markets.” Zespri’s most important sales markets within Europe are the Benelux countries and Spain. According to Bert, Germany is also buying more and more Zespri kiwi fruit. Other European growth markets are France and Italy.

Increasing year-round availability
Although Zespri kiwi fruit is still shipped per reefer, the majority is sent this way in cooled containers. Because Seatrade stopped Meridian routes to Northern Europe and the East coast of the USA, CMA CGM took over these routes. The shipping company weekly offers the service to Zeebrugge with a transit time of 32 days. Nearly 90 per cent of all New Zealand kiwi fruit arrives in Europe via this Belgian port. The remainder is sent to the ports of Vado in Italy and Tarragona in Spain. After arrival in the ports, the kiwi fruit is transported to distributors in European countries using refrigerated lorries, before they’re sold to supermarkets, wholesalers and food service. The number of panellists for Zespri in Belgium has been extended this year. Besides Superfruit and Van Dijck Food, DeRoeck and Greenyard are now also exclusive panellists for the Zespri kiwi fruit to all wholesalers. For the Dutch market, these are Vroegop-Windig and Hagé International.

In coming years, SunGold will continue to grow. Since the commercialisation of the variety, five years ago now, many new plants have been planted. Bert says more new plantings are planned. Besides, existing plants will produce an ever-increasing yield. “Eventually, we want to reach year-round supply. To fill the gap from January to late April, we’ll have to look at expansion possibilities in the Northern Hemisphere.” Zespri kiwi fruit is grown in Europe in Italy, France, Greece and Spain. Expanding the production in North America is another possibility. Strong international demand combined with Zespri’s ambition to grow boosts demand for kiwi fruit plantations. In New Zealand, many people are currently interested in investing in the production of kiwi fruit. Zespri has about 2,500 member growers in New Zealand, and about 1,200 in other countries. Of the total area, about 60 per cent is used to grow Green, and 40 is used to grow SunGold. It now appears as if production will be split 50-50 in future.

Positive sales season expected
Looking at the expectations regarding sales, Zespri is hopeful. “We’re actually feeling very optimistic. We have the volumes to properly serve the market, and quality, flavour and sizing of the kiwi fruit is also good. For now, nothing is in our way to prevent a good result.” Zespri is doing well, and the brand now has global recognition. According to Bert, this doesn’t mean there are no more challenges. “We pay much attention to year-round production of SunGold. Besides, being distinctive remains an important spearhead. By keeping quality as high as possible, cooperating with other growers, and continuing to set the bar higher, we hope to hold on to this.”

More Zespri kiwi fruit will be shipped to China and Japan this year as well. The Chinese kiwi fruit season lasts from August to February. Outside of their own season, the fruit is imported from New Zealand, as well as from Chile and Italy. The Chinese and Japanese markets are very much in development. Zespri expects this growth to continue in coming years. However, one point of attention is the tackling of frauds. For example, 120 trays of fake Zespri kiwi fruit were recently intercepted by Chinese authorities on the wholesaler’s market in Zhoungpu. The boxes and stickers closely resembled those of Zespri, but they had the name ‘Zeopri’ rather than ‘Zespri’ printed on them.To intercept and prosecute similar forgeries, Zespri works closely with the Chinese government.

More information:
Zespri Europe
Bert Barmans

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