23 May 2013

Zespri should have kept closer watch on China - growers

8:06 am on 23 May 2013

The national kiwifruit growers president agrees with Zespri that it should have kept a closer watch on the invoicing for its exports to China.

The kiwifruit marketer has denied any part in making false customs declarations, after its China subsidiary an employee of the subsidiary, and an importer were convicted of underpaying import duties. They are appealing against fines and prison sentences.

Zespri wrote to growers this week admitting that its employees had raised their concerns about the legality of its dual invoicing system, in which Customs in China was given an invoice that didn't reflect the true market value of the fruit.

Zespri says it did investigate their concerns, but in hindsight, not rigourously enough.

Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated president Neil Trebilco agrees that Zespri was not vigourous enough in getting answers, and taking appropriate action.

"I haven't seen anything to suggest to me that Zespri's been corrupt in this at this point, I think what Zespri has been is they've been party and remiss in ensuring that their importer was compliant - but I think that's where it starts and stops."

Mr Trebilco says it concerns growers because China is increasingly important as a kiwifruit market. He says it's also a challenging place to do business in, as illustrated by the hold-up in New Zealand meat shipments.