Kiwifruit Season Kicks Off Early and in Style

Media Release - 23 March 2009

The 2009 New Zealand kiwifruit season kicked off this week with the first of the ZESPRI® GOLD Kiwifruit shipments sent to Japan, ahead of schedule, while ZESPRI® GREEN Kiwifruit growers have started picking their quality fruit.

“We’re delighted with the quality of this early season harvest – the crop is clean with good sized fruit and excellent taste characteristics,” says Lain Jager, ZESPRI’s CEO.

“Our marketing teams in Asia and Europe plan to capitalise on the early start to the season with aggressive marketing campaigns, and our customers and consumers are eagerly anticipating the arrival of great tasting, high quality, healthy New Zealand Kiwifruit,” says Mr Jager.

The first shipment to Japan of 560 pallets, or 140,000 trays of ZESPRI® GOLD Kiwifruit, will arrive in Kobe, Japan on 6 April after being shipped from Gisborne on the MV Sasanqua. This is almost two weeks ahead of the 2008 season start date.

The first kiwifruit to leave New Zealand is sharing a boat with a consignment of late season squash. The opportunity to share loads provides cost efficiencies and is environmentally responsible, highlighting ZESPRI’s ongoing commitment to the environment.

The first shipments of ZESPRI® Kiwifruit are scheduled to arrive in China mid-April and in Europe at the end of April, in plenty of time to capitalise on the early season marketing programmes. The promotions will focus on the health and nutritional benefits of ZESPRI® Kiwifruit, supported by consumer competitions and nutritional campaigns in schools.

ZESPRI has secured the Sunbelt Spirit, a refrigerated cargo carrier for the largest ever single shipment of ZESPRI® Kiwifruit, below deck to Europe, due to arrive at the beginning of May. The ship will hold 7,300 pallets (approximately 69.5 million pieces) of ZESPRI® Kiwifruit, meaning more fruit can be exported at one time, cutting down on transit times whilst offering improved refrigeration efficiencies.

“ZESPRI is in a unique position of being one of the few fruit exporters globally who could coordinate this kind of volume to move out of one port,” says Mike Knowles, ZESPRI Shipping Manager.

Consumer demand for top quality ZESPRI® GREEN, GOLD and ORGANIC Kiwifruit is very high. In particular, demand for ZESPRI® GOLD Kiwifruit has increased significantly in the Asian markets and the demand for ZESPRI® GREEN Kiwifruit has been increasing year on year.

“ZESPRI has grown its presence in Europe, China, Japan and North America, and over the next two years we predict total volumes to grow by a further 10 million trays. Thanks to improved foreign exchange rates, reduced oil prices and a very strong 2009 crop we are well placed for a successful season,” says Mr Jager.

The early start to the season is great news for kiwifruit connoisseurs around the world and the New Zealand economy alike.

Around 25,000 people, mostly seasonal workers, will be employed by the New Zealand Kiwifruit industry to harvest, pack and ship millions of ZESPRI® GREEN, GOLD and ORGANIC Kiwifruit over the coming months, boosting the local and domestic economy.

“The kiwifruit industry is a key economic driver in the Bay of Plenty and generates revenues and flow-on revenues of around $2 billion annually, contributing 19 per cent to the region’s gross domestic product,” said Peter Ombler, President of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated.

“We are confident that a combination of an early start to the season, the high quality of the fruit and new export markets will bode well for a strong season for Bay growers,” said Mr Ombler.

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