On April 1, a bulk carrier loaded with over 3,500 tons of new season Zespri kiwifruits from New Zealand unloaded at the Yangshan South Port in Shanghai. Chilean cherries, a product also from the southern hemisphere, saw the sales plummet for the first time in China this season, due to consumers’ diminishing interest and the incident where the Covid-19 virus was tested on the surface of the fruit. Prices were halved or even worse. Similar to Chilean cherries, China is the largest single market for New Zealand’s kiwifruit exports. Will this product experience a similar fate this season?
The Chinese account for 30% Zespri's global sales
From the start of the year, the local Covid situation in New Zealand has been well controlled, and the same strong controls are applied to the exports to China. Jiang Shijie, general manager of Zespri Greater China, revealed that the company’s sales in the Greater China market have been staying at the No.1 spot in the world for years, and they plan to increase sales by 10%-15% on last year.
For this reason, Zespri is very cautious, strictly following the Covid control guidance plan of the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries, increasing quarantine and disinfection measures for orchards and packaging plants, and strengthening health checks for workers in the industrial chain to ensure the safety of the supply to the Chinese market. In addition, after more than ten years of research and trials, a limited volume of the new red variety (Red19) was launched in the market in order to please Chinese consumers. Zespri only offered Green and SunGold kiwis before this.
To differentiate with quality
Insiders from the imported fruit industry in Shanghai said that the success of kiwis from New Zealand in China is a role model for all imported fruits. Kiwis there ripen in March and are harvested as fast as possible before arriving in Shanghai about 20 days later, to ensure fresh supply. The reason for the rush is that New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere, and their kiwifruit season is the opposite of their Chinese counterparts. Although Chilean kiwifruits are also exported to China during the same period, it’s difficult to compete with New Zealand kiwifruits in terms of quality and variety. The sales period is at least three months before local fruits flood onto the market, so the market is empty and these kiwifruits have few rivals.
In addition to arriving in China earlier, Zespri also strives to supply kiwis for a longer period of time, extending the supply period from April to the end of each year. In fact, by the end of the year, kiwis grown in New Zealand are no longer available and Zespri mostly markets kiwis from Italy, but the product must meet their quality standards.
Although a best seller in China, kiwi exporters have been facing worries in recent years. China's local growing techniques have been continuously improving, especially the quality of green kiwis has been comparable to Zespri’s. It is reported that what Zespri is most worried about is that once China has the ability to grow golden kiwis, it may become a big competitor. Therefore, the company is considering contracting orchards in China to make them official suppliers.
Source: Jiefang Daily