In the past six months in China, illegal plantings of New Zealand's high valued gold kiwifruit variety -Sun Gold- have almost doubled
Zespri owns the rights to Sun Gold, or G3, and growers there pay hundreds of thousands to dollars per hectare to grow it. However, six months ago the marketing organisation believed there were about 2500 hectares of unauthorised plantings in China. That has now climbed to 4000 hectares, while New Zealand has 7500 hectares of Sun Gold under cultivation.
Senior executive Dave Courtney said Zespri is watching the situation closely: "A key thing we need to understand is the quality of the fruit they can produce there, because if it's high quality and equal to what we produce out of New Zealand and our other growing locations then it's more of a threat than if it was a low quality offering. Unfortunately, it looks like there is a good portion of orchards can produce good quality fruit.”
At present, the Chinese orchards are not high producers, but if they learn to grow it well, Courtney said it could push New Zealand fruit off supermarket shelves, and lower prices. It would also be going head on with Zespri's Italian grown fruit which arrives later in the year.
Eradicating the plantings is not possible but Zespri is about to start legal action against a nursery in China, using the PVR (Plant Variety Right) law to slow plantings down. Courtney acknowledged it was a difficult path to take, and quite different to taking proceedings against growers, as they have, in Italy and New Zealand.