"Bert Barmans, Zespri: "Change to new variety requires quite an investment"

"Sector learns to live with PSA"

Zespri started the New Zealand kiwi season a little later than previous years. "For Gold this was even six weeks later" Bert Barmans, general manager Zespri Europe says. "Because of the drought in New Zealand the fruit remained in the orchards a little longer, with the result that the supply was a little late as well. This year it was an additional disappointment, because of the bad European Spring the Summer fruit was also later and there were opportunities we could not satisfy now.The total volume of kiwi's decreased and that is because less of Gold was supplied. Green has remained just about the same and also the organic kiwi's show a stable volume. Furthermore, the kiwi season has run quite well so far. Sales were stable during the Summer, especially for Green. We estimate that the New Zealand season for Zespri Green will change without problems to the Italian Zespri Green season."

Decrease Gold because of switch over

"This year there was a significant decrease in the volume of sales of Gold. That was of course partly the result of PSA (Pseudomonas Syringae Actinidiae). But mainly also because of the very large switch over in the orchards to SunGold. This gives us good prospects for the coming years. We started six weeks later with the Gold-season and have been sold out for a while already. But we are of the opinion that it will still take a while before the distribution has been emptied completely."
To increase the brand
Zespri notice that competition in the area of kiwis has increased. Also other kiwi growers bring new varieties to the market and look for the best sales markets for their kiwi production. Therefore Zespri is highly interested in increasing the Zespri brand and an all year round supply of our kiwi's. Innovation as well is a very important pillar in the New Zealand kiwi sector. Annually we invest about 6 million New Zealand dollars for research and the development of new varieties, durability, supply chain and improvement of productivity. At the same time we also want better information about our consumers and to further research the advantages to health of our kiwi's," Bert stresses. He mentions that Spain, Japan and China are the most important sales markets worldwide. "But the Benelux is a very important market for Zespri. We invest a lot in new markets, including Southeast Asia, a number of countries in Latin America and the Middle-East."

Bert mentions that the Hort16A (the 'common' Zespri-Gold) will disappear completely over time. "There is not as yet a definite moment for this. That depends both on PSA and the growers. To change to a new variety demands quite an investment of course, but we notice that the balance in the volume changes in the direction of SunGold all the time. In Europe only a very limited volume of Zespri Gold Hort16A will still be sold from the next New Zealand season."

Learn to live with the disease
"PSA is present in New Zealand and worldwide in all other production areas and will not disappear quickly. There is no ready-made solution, which will rid the kiwi sector of this disease, but the sector learns to live with this disease. Finally the solution to PSA will be a combination of new, more tolerant varieties and better ways to maintain and control the orchards. An enormously big research program has been started together with Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH) with more than eighty research programs. On the other side the New Zealand kiwi fruit growers develop better management techniques all the time, which assist to control the disease. At the moment there is a careful optimism amongst the kiwi growers, especially because the new variety SunGold is doing very well, also in the regions where PSA struck strongly. Of this new variety already more than 3,000 HA has been planted in the meantime and show a positive prospect for the coming years" Barmans concludes.

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