Covid-19 has brought massive disruptions and huge cost increases to the world's shipping routes.
Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson says the kiwifruit industry has coped better than most, because it has dedicated vessel routes and longstanding relationships with some of the best shipping companies in the world - especially in the charter space.
"We have increased our charters from 50% to over 70% this year and are continuing in to look to bring more vessels in early to get our fruit off to market," he told Rural News.
"On the container side it continues to be fairly chaotic out there and we are experiencing delays and congestion, which is likely to continue right through 2022."
The other issue facing Zespri is congestion at NZ ports. Mathieseon says its main port is Tauranga and while there are problems with congestion and delays there, the port is working hard to address the issues.
He says the same applies to Auckland, but he's hopeful they can fix their problems because the port is important to Zespri.
Overall, Mathieson says he's proud of the team at Zespri - and the industry as a whole - for handling the challenges brought about by Covid.
"The whole industry has pulled together in what's been really challenging times," he says.
"The 2020 season was tough, but '21 is tougher. Despite this, we have pulled together and found solutions and we have managed to get through."
Mathieson believes the next season will be equally challenging, but he's confident the sector will be able to get through "thanks to the same innovative and collaborative team spirit that got us through last year."
China Remains An Issue
Dan Mathieson is off to China soon to get a better handle on what is happening with the illegally-grown NZ SunGold kiwifruit there.
He says the amount of unauthorised SunGold in China has grown quite rapidly over the last couple of years and he sees no reason why it won't continue to expand.
Mathieson says the quality of this fruit is variable, with some of it actually very good and some poor.
"At the moment, the quality spectrum is quite wide," he told Rural News. "But they (Chinese growers) are learning and many have spent quite a considerable period of time in NZ."
He says they have learnt from the best here and they have taken that know-how back to China and are getting better and better.
Mathieson says Zespri's strategy is to have the world's best kiwifruit on the shelves of supermarkets for 12 months of the year. He explains that NZ can only supply premium quality fruit for seven months of the year and is looking to see whether other countries can fill that gap.
Mathieson says some of that gap is filled from kiwifruit grown in Italy and hinted if the Chinese fruit matched the quality of NZ fruit - it may help fill some of the void in the market.