Zespri's attempt to buy counterfeit Chinese golden kiwifruit and stem illegal growing in the country has been slapped down by the government-appointed regulator. The kiwifruit giant signed the beginnings of a commercial arrangement with a Chinese state-owned firm late in 2020. The goal was to commercialise some of an estimated 4000 ha of unlicensed SunGold kiwifruit being grown in China on vines that were stolen from the company.
However, Kiwifruit New Zealand (KNZ), which regulates Zespri, has declined to approve the proposal in a draft decision, deeming it a risk to the interests of New Zealand’s kiwifruit growers.
Zespri, which had already signed a memorandum of intent with Sichuan State-owned Assets Operation and Investment Management, could have taken the proposal and KNZ’s assessment to the industry’s 2792 growers to vote on whether it should go-ahead. However, the company has withdrawn its proposal to KNZ in order to rework it, before the regulator's final decision could be made public.
A summary of the judgement, published by KNZ on Monday, said the trial to buy and brand 1.95 million trays of unlicensed SunGold kiwifruit from Chinese growers was “more than a low risk” – and therefore did not meet a regulatory threshold – in three ways. KNZ chief executive Geoff Morgan declined to say what the risks were, as Zespri was expected to return with an adjusted proposal.
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