As chocolate eggs are being dispensed this weekend, New Zealand kiwifruit growers are shipping a much healthier alternative to Chinese consumers.
The Klipper Stream will carry New Zealand’s first load of Zespri Kiwifruit from the Port of Tauranga to China for the year, marking the start of what looks like another record-breaking season. Loading began this morning and the ship is scheduled to pass through the harbour entrance on Good Friday.
This year’s New Zealand-grown crop is expected to be about 20 million trays – 70,000 tonnes – higher than last year.
Mount Maunganui-based global kiwifruit marketing company Zespri will announce the current season’s sales figures in May but sales will certainly exceed $2 billion and are expected to grow in the 2018/19 season.
In 2017, 123 million trays of New Zealand fruit – that’s more than 430,000 tonnes – were sold and 102 million of those trays came out of Bay of Plenty soil.
An additional 14 million trays of fruit were grown offshore. Zespri’s overseas growers are charged with supplying fruit outside the New Zealand growing season, thereby boosting – and trying to meet - year-round global demand.
Zespri Chief Executive Dan Mathieson says both the company’s two biggest markets, Japan and China, are forecast to grow strongly. Zespri is also looking for solid growth across the rest of Asia as well as Europe and North America, where supply did not meet demand last year.
“Demand for safe, healthy fruit continues to grow exponentially in China, in terms of both volume and value. However, our Japanese market is going great guns as well – we’ve seen a 30 percent sales growth there over the past four years.
“So our two major markets are pretty much neck and neck and repeat purchasing is very strong from our consumers.”
Kiwifruit continues to rank top among all New Zealand’s horticultural exports, with premium Zespri Kiwifruit sold in nearly 60 countries.
Nationwide, the industry employs about 18,000 people; 8000 of them full time. New Zealand’s 2500 kiwifruit growers collectively own about 13,500 ha of orchard. Zespri has opened the tender for an additional 750ha of SunGold licence this year and, subject to demand, each year out to 2020.
By 2025, Zespri expects international kiwifruit sales will hit at least $4.5 billion. In the next 12 years, that growth is expected to bring more than 29,000 new kiwifruit jobs to regions around the country, according to a recent University of Waikato report.