23 Jul 2009

Growers support Zespri retaining grip on exports

8:33 am on 23 July 2009

There has been unanimous support for the kiwifruit marketer Zespri to retain its near-monopoly of exports.

Turners and Growers, New Zealand's biggest fresh produce company, is taking legal action in a bid to end Zespri's single point-of-entry status.

The company filed papers with the High Court in Auckland on Wednesday, claiming the kiwifruit marketer and exporter had abused its position.

It also claims the Kiwifruit Protection Regulations is inconsistent with the Commerce Act, which promotes competition, and the Bill of Rights.

Turners and Growers' chief executive Jeff Welsey says Zespri unfairly pressures industry participants to deal exclusively with them and the feedback he has received shows considerable support for Turners and Growers' position.

But at Zespri's annual general meeting in Tauranga on Wednesday, about 500 growers at the meeting voted unanimously in an informal motion to support the status quo.

Zespri chairman John Loughlin says the legal action by Turners and Growers is a publicity stunt in what he calls its ongoing efforts to destabilise the industry.

Mr Loughlin says Zespri will vigorously fight - but warned it will come at a cost to grower shareholders.

Kiwifruit Growers president Peter Ombler says the industry has been extraordinarily successful under the current structure and growers don't want to lose control of their own industry.