21 May 2015

Kiwifruit growers have 'extraordinary' season

6:30 pm on 21 May 2015

Kiwifruit exporter Zespri says the 2014-15 season was extraordinary, with strong returns for growers, and fruit volumes rising rapidly.

Green kiwifruit growers got their highest ever return per hectare of $53,884 and just over $6 a tray.

Green kiwifruit growers got their highest ever return per hectare of $53,884 and just over $6 a tray. Photo: 123RF

With 69 million trays of green kiwifruit sold overseas, growers got their highest ever return per hectare of $53,884 and just over $6 a tray.

Gold kiwifruit growers got $9.80 a tray, down from $12 last season.

While boats are leaving New Zealand ports at the moment stocked with the new season's fruit, Zespri has just released its results from last season.

Zespri sold one and a half billion dollars worth of kiwifruit overseas - and green kiwifruit growers got their highest ever average return per hectare of just over 53-thousand dollars.

69 million trays of green kiwifruit were sold overseas.

While tray values fell for gold kiwifruit growers, that is off the back of a massive increase in supply as the industry continues to recover from the dark days when the bacterial disease PSA forced many growers to chainsaw down their vines.

Chief executive Lain Jager said it was a very good season for the industry.

"Very strong green returns of over $6 ($6.01) a tray on a good volume of high taste green kiwifruit. The other thing that has been tremendously important for the New Zealand kiwifruit industry has been the recovery of gold volumes - 18.6 million trays sold last year up from just 11.1 million trays the year before that."

Mr Jager said over the last few seasons there had been a significant contraction of gold volumes, and as those volumes had contracted then gold returns had risen to very, very high levels.

"As volumes recover what we expect to see is reducing returns, back to more normal levels perhaps $6.50/$7 (per tray of gold kiwifruit) looking forward over the next few years. So this last year at $9.80 reflected on the one hand a reduction of $12 (per tray) the year before that, but on the other hand a very pleasing recovery of supply volume."

Mr Jager said returns to New Zealand growers were boosted after Chilean kiwifruit growers were hit by "devastating frosts".

"That significantly reduced their crop to perhaps 50 percent of normal volumes or even less, which meant Zespri was selling into a very open market last season."

Mr Jager believes the Chilean growers misfortune may have added 50 to 60 cents per tray to New Zealand growers.

Lain Jager said the new Gold3 kiwifruit continued to stand up to the bacteria PSA, which all but wiped out the previous gold variety, and was being well received by consumers.

Mr Jager said the industry was aiming to export 60 million trays of gold kiwifruit by 2020.

He said he was aware that some kiwifruit growers, he believes possibly about 40, are looking to take a class action lawsuit against the Government over the PSA incursion.

Mixed reaction from growers

Bay of Plenty kiwifruit grower Rob Thode said he was appalled at the return he was getting from Zespri and the company should be doing better.

Mr Thode, whose property was still affected by PSA, said last year was good for growers but more needed to be done.

"We're extremely exposed to disease going forward because we've only got two varieties, in other words we're not diversified," he said.

"So there's a lot of problems there, I mean I don't think Zespri did a lot to make last year happen, it basically got handed to them on a plate by what happened in Chile and the fact that they just weren't having to compete, I mean could raise the price."

But Te Puke kiwifruit grower Robbie Ellison said the returns from Zespri were excellent and he was happy with the company's performance.

He said four years ago he was not sure he would still be in business now, but had just harvested his best crop ever.

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