Zespri Horizon

First of New Zealand's 2023 kiwifruit crop sets sail to Japan

Media Statement

20 Mar 2023


The first shipment of the 2023 New Zealand kiwifruit season has now departed the Port of Tauranga, carrying around 2,500 tonnes (more than 600,000 trays) of Zespri SunGold Kiwifruit to customers in Japan.  

The Southampton Star is expected to reach Tokyo in early April before sailing onto Kobe and is the first of 53 charter vessels Zespri will use this season to deliver around 145 million trays of Green, SunGold and RubyRed Kiwifruit to more than 50 countries.  

Charter vessels will be responsible for delivering around 72 million trays of this season’s New Zealand-grown fruit to Zespri’s global consumers. This season’s charter programme will include three services to Northern Europe, seven to the Mediterranean, two to North America’s West Coast and 41 to Asia, with a further 73 million trays to be shipped using container services.

Zespri Acting Chief Global Supply Officer Jason Te Brake says that after a really challenging 2022 and a tough start to 2023 given adverse weather events including Cyclone Gabrielle’s impact in Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne - the start of the new season represented a reset for the industry.   

“Demand for our fruit remains strong, and with this season’s harvest ramping up over the coming weeks, we’ll soon move into mainpack where the bulk of our fruit is harvested. 

“It’s a proud moment seeing the first ship taking our fruit to customers and consumers but especially this year given it’s been such a challenging start to the year for some of our growers.” 

Mr Te Brake says lower fruit volumes and having more labour available this season provides an opportunity for the industry to focus on improving fruit quality which will play a key role in returning more value to growers and communities.  

“The industry’s Quality Action Plan was launched in October last year and has seen significant collaboration throughout the entire industry to ensure we deliver great quality fruit for our customers and consumers in the 2023 season, as well as in the years ahead. 

“That starts with ensuring that we’re doing everything we can to have a great harvest and looking after the fruit throughout the supply chain. 

“There’s already been some great work undertaken across the industry as part of the Quality Action Plan, and that will continue to be our focus as harvest continues over the coming months.” 

One of the key principles within the Quality Action Plan is assessing fruit flow decision-making from end-to-end, and Mr Te Brake says that includes looking at how Zespri can optimise its shipping programme to ensure it was helping deliver consistently good-quality fruit to consumers in offshore markets.

“While Covid-19 caused significant shipping disruption in recent years, we’re expecting a more stable shipping environment this season, with better transit times delivering fruit to markets.  

“With our first charter vessel now on the way to market, we’re looking forward to our shipping programme ramping up in the weeks ahead and continuing to work with our shipping partners to provide consistently high-quality Zespri Kiwifruit for our customers and consumers to enjoy this season,” Mr Te Brake says.