Nothing New in T&G “Announcement”

Media Release - 14 June 2010

The world’s most successful horticulture marketer, ZESPRI Group Ltd, says there is nothing new in a reported “announcement” by struggling apple exporter Turners & Growers Ltd (T&G) that it plans to try to sell a new kiwifruit variety.

It says T&G, a one percent player in the New Zealand kiwifruit industry and currently majority-owned by corporate raider Guinness Peat Group (GPG), does so at its own commercial risk and, of even more concern, at the risk of any participating growers.

ZESPRI’s Director Corporate and Grower Services Carol Ward said the T&G/GPG “announcement” contained no new information and appeared to be nothing more than the latest step in T&G Chairman Tony Gibbs’ political campaign to break up the New Zealand kiwifruit industry.

She said it had clearly been timed ahead of major commercial developments to be announced by ZESPRI later this week.

“It is well known throughout the industry that this week the ZESPRI Board will be making commercialisation decisions about whether new varieties of kiwifruit should start to be grown this winter for commercial production, and about our growth plans through this decade and beyond,” Ms Ward said.

“The decision on new varieties will be an important step in a scientific process which so far has seen more than 50,000 potential new varieties assessed and given due consideration. This programme provides a strong pipeline of potential new varieties for the future.

“These were developed by ZESPRI in partnership with the New Zealand Government through Plant & Food Research.

“Over the last 10 years we have conducted extensive orchard, storage, distribution and taste tests which will inform that decision. There has also been consultation with major customers and retail outlets, particularly in Japan, along with careful consideration of how best to build our ZESPRI Brand portfolio.

“It is vital the industry chooses carefully. The last thing the New Zealand kiwifruit industry needs is a proliferation of substandard cultivars which would simply confuse consumers and drive down prices and export returns.

“Any grower considering grafting to new varieties must be fully informed as to the commercial viability of the variety and the likely returns.”

Ms Ward said those who had new varieties of kiwifruit they wanted to consider planting for export beyond Australia should first talk to industry-regulator Kiwifruit New Zealand (KNZ), grower representative organisation New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) and ZESPRI.

“The New Zealand Kiwifruit Export Regulations provide for anyone to be able to export kiwifruit from New Zealand, under collaborative marketing procedures, as long as they can show their proposal is in the best interests of New Zealand kiwifruit growers,” she said.

“Collaborative marketing programmes allow companies to export kiwifruit from New Zealand – all in a way which benefits them and the wider industry – and we expect this aspect of the industry to continue to grow in the years ahead. More than 16 companies are already exporting from New Zealand under collaborative marketing programmes. If it has serious commercial propositions, we would welcome such a programme by T&G.”

Ms Ward said the latest T&G/GPG campaign to break up the industry was failing.

“According to Colmar Brunton, more than 90 percent of growers support ZESPRI and the industry’s marketing arrangements, and there has been equally strong support for the growers’ view from across parliament, including Agriculture Minister David Carter, Trade Minister Tim Groser and Opposition Leader Phil Goff.”

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