Another predicted strong kiwifruit season is underway with Gisborne growers the first to begin picking ZESPRI® GOLD kiwifruit this week.
ZESPRI’s GM Supply Chain, Sally Gardiner, says early indications are that the volume of the 2011 season will be similar to last year’s, with around 100 million trays of kiwifruit being exported.
“Growing conditions have been fantastic, with more rainfall and higher temperatures on average compared to last season and we are expecting a great crop as a result.
“With the start of the season there is always a real buzz in the industry as the hard work done through the growing season starts to deliver, as all those working in the industry prepare themselves for the very busy months ahead and the anticipation builds in our offshore markets for the arrival of new season fruit.”
One of the first orchardists to start picking was Gisborne grower Kaiaponi Farms, Scott Wilson: “We have had a fantastic growing season, the fruit is looking great with high taste and it’s great to get picking underway,” he says.
Post-harvest operator OPAC is packing some of the first fruit. Operations Manager Warren Short says it is good to have the packing season underway with fruit from Gisborne growers being the first to kick-start the 2011 New Zealand kiwifruit season.
Ms Gardiner says with picking started, it is expected the first of this season’s ZESPRI® Kiwifruit will be shipped from New Zealand next week and will start to arrive in overseas markets in mid-April.
“We are confident that there will again be strong demand for ZESPRI’s premium kiwifruit in overseas markets despite ongoing global economic uncertainty and the still-to-be-determined impact on demand in our key market of Japan from the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
“We also face the challenge of Psa, and as an industry we are working together as a cohesive and focused team, alongside Government, to address it. While monitoring and hygiene practices throughout the industry have changed as a result of Psa, the number of orchards impacted still represents less than 2 percent of the industry and customers will not see any impact on sales volumes in our overseas markets this year.”
ZESPRI’s in-market teams are preparing for their trade and consumer launch PR events and marketing campaigns, with a continued focus on the health and vitality benefits of ZESPRI® Kiwifruit. The selling season will commence in mid-April in Asia, and in early May throughout Europe and in North America.
Among the early season fruit to be picked are two of the new varieties of ZESPRI® Kiwifruit – an early gold variety, and an earlier, sweeter green variety - released to growers in June last year for commercial use. A third variety, a potentially long-storing gold variety which has the potential to extend the ZESPRI® GOLD selling season, was also released to growers at the same time.
‘First Gold’, a new variety of early Gold Kiwifruit owned by Y356 Ltd. and part of a collaborative marketing arrangement with ZESPRI, was harvested last week. Gisborne company First Fresh will manage the consumer trial of First Gold this year.
First Fresh Managing Director, Ian Albers, says: “There is already fruit on the water to Singapore and Thailand with arrival in the marketplace timed for late March or early April. We were very pleased with the taste and appearance of this fruit and look forward to seeing it firsthand when it arrives.”
Significant collaboration between First Fresh and ZESPRI will continue in-market to achieve the best possible result for New Zealand kiwifruit suppliers.
ZESPRI’s Director of Corporate and Grower Services, Carol Ward, says the licences to grow the new ZESPRI varieties were eagerly snapped up by growers last year, which was a great show of confidence in the future of the New Zealand kiwifruit industry.
“Innovation is vital to the future growth of ZESPRI and the New Zealand kiwifruit industry and the new varieties are the result of ZESPRI and Plant & Food Research working together for over 20 years to establish the world’s largest and most successful kiwifruit breeding programme,” Ms Ward says.
ZESPRI has confirmed it will make available at least 200ha of kiwifruit variety licences to kiwifruit growers in June this year, and potentially more subject to further supply chain and in-market consumer assessment in the next few months.
In the coming months, around 25,000 people, mostly seasonal workers, will be employed by the New Zealand kiwifruit industry to harvest, pack and ship ZESPRI® GREEN, GOLD and ORGANIC kiwifruit, injecting millions of dollars into the New Zealand economy. The kiwifruit industry is working with other agencies to help find seasonal work for displaced Christchurch workers.