The 2012 kiwifruit harvest has begun in New Zealand, with the first shipment of ZESPRI GOLD kiwifruit due to depart for Japan in early April, and arriving in market mid-April.
The first kiwifruit orchards to be picked were in the Poverty Bay region, traditionally the earliest maturing of New Zealand’s kiwifruit growing regions.
ZESPRI’s General Manager Supply Chain, Sally Gardiner, said while the total export volume in 2012 would be down compared to last year, the final crop estimate had increased over earlier crop estimates for the 2012 season.
“2011 produced a record crop for the industry of around 115 million trays, an increase of 12 percent on the 2010 season. In 2012, we expect that due to Psa and seasonal factors the crop will be around 95 million trays, which is closer to the production of a more normal season,” Ms Gardiner said.
It is estimated this year the industry will harvest up to 20 million trays of gold (Hort16A) kiwifruit, around 70 million trays of green kiwifruit, around 3.5 million trays of organic kiwifruit (making ZESPRI the largest exporter of certified organic produce from New Zealand) and around 2 million trays of ZESPRI’s newly-commercialised varieties.
“What is really exciting is seeing new variety volumes increase. The kiwifruit industry has identified one of these varieties, known as Gold3, as the potential future foundation for our gold kiwifruit category in a Psa environment.
“This year we will have up to one million trays of Gold3 and it will allow us to continue to build the profile of this fruit with our customers around the world and also increase our understanding of the fruit’s performance throughout the ZESPRI supply chain,” Ms Gardiner said.
The Gold3 variety was commercialised in 2010 after a 10-year development programme to ensure it had the necessary qualities to be a commercially successful kiwifruit variety. In addition, Gold3 has shown good levels of Psa tolerance, which is now also a necessary quality for any successful commercial kiwifruit variety.
A decision will be made by ZESPRI on 21 March as to whether there will be a wide-scale release of Gold3 licences to kiwifruit growers this year to begin the industry’s recovery pathway from Psa.
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers president Neil Trebilco, said the start of the 2012 harvest brings mixed feelings in the industry as it continues to deal with the impact of Psa and looks to re-build from the disease.
“It’s great to be starting picking. There is always a real anticipation after a season’s hard work in preparing the crop for harvest. But growers’ anticipation is tempered by the knowledge that some of their fellow growers will not harvest a crop, or only harvest a partial crop in 2012, because of Psa.
“For some growers this will be their first year without a crop, and for other growers they are facing the fact that once their vines have been picked they will likely have to be cut out and grafted across to a more Psa tolerant variety.
“There are a couple of tough years ahead for the industry as it builds its pathway out of Psa, but we are confident we will emerge from the current challenging times in stronger shape,” Mr Trebilco said.