Climate change may force the kiwifruit industry to look for new places to grow its vines – especially the green hayward variety.
The first kiwifruit charter ship sailed from Tauranga last Monday, bound for Shanghai and Kobe with 4600 pallets of SunGold from Gisborne and Tauranga.
For the first time, Zespri is expecting to supply more gold kiwifruit than green this year. Courtney told Rural News this makes history.
“The industry has been green-only for a very long time; until 20 years ago it was mainly green and a bit of gold. But this year it looks likely there will be more gold than green. It is a significant change.”
With SunGold added to the mix, Zespri is selling a record total of kiwifruit.
“People are still buying green but gold has brought more consumers to the kiwifruit category all up. Before we had excellent numbers of people who ate kiwifruit, but now we have even more people who eat kiwifruit -- both gold and green.
“Last season we supplied 76 million trays of Green and 65 million trays of SunGold. Our latest estimates indicate we are on track to supply more than 75 million trays of SunGold this season, while Green is expected to be below 75 million trays.”
In China Zespri is sending more product into smaller cities (10 million plus) as well as the biggest -- Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, says Courtney.
“As you establish there you go out to the next set of cities. It is a constant growth strategy for us in China as we familiarise ourselves with certain cities and get confidence in our distribution.”
In Japan Zespri is widely spread and focused on getting people either to eat kiwifruit or to eat more kiwifruit.
“Our focus is on building penetration – introducing our products to more and more people over time.”
Zespri has been selling into South East Asia for a long time but every year the footprint gets larger and now includes Vietnam.
“The other market we have been looking at for some time is India, with its huge population. How to build distribution and the customer base there is a long term focus for us as well.”
Courtney says the first shipment left Tauranga on Sunday night, March 24, headed for China and Japan to get the fruit into the market early.
“Once the first one has gone we quickly fill the pipeline afterwards to make sure we can keep the shelves full in those markets that we started. Then we start in other markets around the world.”
Zespri expects to export at least 600,000 pallets of kiwifruit this season -- at least 18,000 containers.
“We’re also expecting to use 45 charter vessels - three to move our kiwifruit to northern Europe, 12 to our Mediterranean markets and 30 to Japan, China and Korea.”
Courtney says most growing regions have had a very dry summer “which means we’re expecting great tasting fruit this season”.