Based in the Landes, Prim’land is France’s leader in kiwi distribution and exports two thirds of their production. China is one of their biggest clients, surprising considering this is where the fruit originates from. In the Pyrénées-Atlantiques the kiwi is grown in the Adour basin, from Hastingues to Bidache.

Harvest is in full swing until at least the end of November for Prim’land and their colleagues at Sikig. “We are in full harvest, until at least the 20th November” says Francois Lafitte, President of the Scaap Kiwi France Cooperative (300 members), of which Prim’land is their commercialisation structure. This company also sells kiwis from the Rhone valley, the Lot and Corsica.

No matter where they are grown, harvest is always by hand. Teams of 50 to 90 people spread out over a plot. The warm weather in September-October means that “we were protected from frost. The result, the 2004 vintage will be of average quantity, and good calibre”. 2013, however, was of weak yield and average quality (disease damaged the species, 100 ha of yellow and green fruit were lost).

In the Adour basin, the Hayward is the most common variety. Originally from New Zealand, it is harvested from the end of August. “Oscar” is the star at Prim’land, their own “Adour kiwi’ brand that is protected by a PGO obtained from the EU in 2009 as well as the “Label Rouge” that it has since 1996.

“Oscar” is not their only brand, for a few years now they have been growing the “Nergi”, a baby kiwi that does not need peeling. The size of a cherry tomato, it is “good for snacks or an aperitif”. In the 2013 season, they sold 600,000 punnets of which 51% was exported to Germany, Belgium, the UK and Hong Kong.

Prim’land exported 3,000 tons of kiwis to Hong Kong last year. The Adour kiwi is very popular here thanks to it’s quality, guaranteed food safety, an offer out of season thanks to the different hemisphere, and it’s French image, seen by the Chinese as being high-end.

Mr Lafitte explains that “the demand is there. The problem, is producing : it takes 4 years for a tree to give fruit, and 5 for a stable supply”. Sales period for French kiwis is limited to 6 months over the winter, in the summer the fruit is imported from Asia and Oceania, who are in full production.

In Labatut they have a treatment capacity of 400 to 500 tons/week, with export also aiming at the USA. Turnover reaches 20,000 tons marketed/year. Excluding tax, Prim’land has an annual turnover of €30 million, of which 40% is from France, 17% from other places in Europe, and 43% from third countries. Kiwi’s are the 10th most purchased fruit in France according to Interfel. The French consume 1 billion kiwis, i.e. 1.2kg per person, per year.