25 Nov 2009

Kiwifruit marketing stoush takes another twist

8:23 am on 25 November 2009

The head of the kiwifruit growers organisation has accused a produce company of using the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to further its cause and undermine the way New Zealand kiwifruit is marketed.

Peter Ombler's comments follow questioning by United States officials at the WTO over the legal battle between kiwifruit marketer Zespri and produce company Turners & Growers.

Earlier this year Turners & Growers launched court proceedings challenging the legality of the regulations that allow Zespri to control exports to all markets except Australia.

Turners & Growers says the case was brought to the attention of the US officials by its partner there, Dayka and Hackett, which was concerned that Zespri's selling system could breach US anti-competitive legislation.

The US officials have now asked the New Zealand Government to explain the situation.

But Mr Ombler says he doesn't think Turners & Growers has the best interests of growers at heart, and the overwhelming majority still want to keep things as is.

Turners & Growers managing director Jeff Wesley says the issue was highlighted when the company decided it wanted to enter into a collaborative marketing arrangement for the US with Zespri, which the marketer rejected.

He says Turners & Growers has varieties of kiwifruit that New Zealand growers do not have, and many want to plant these varieties.

"We're just trying to work the system to allow them to grow varieties that will actually get them out of what we call the green trap, that is, they're going bankrupt currently."