30 May 2013

NZ kiwifruit sales climb in China

9:59 am on 30 May 2013

While New Zealand's kiwifruit exporter Zespri has been under fire at home recently for its disputed role in customs duty avoidance in China, it hasn't spoiled Chinese consumers' appetite for its fruit.

Zespri's 2012/13 annual report shows not only is Chinese fondness for New Zealand's kiwifruit growing but people there are prepared to pay more for the product.

Zespri sold more than 10 million trays of kiwifruit in China this financial year - up 10% on the year before - and the returns from that fruit rose by more than 20%.

Zespri's been fined $1 million in China for its role in customs duties not being paid but chief executive Lain Jager says the company's put that "one-off' fine behind it and its biggest challenge now is keeping up with demand.

"We've had two great seasons - 2011, 2012 - in China, both growth in volume and growth in returns. Again this year's started well.

"The issue in China while it's been very much in the news lately is really an historical issue - 2008, 2009 and 2010 seasons. It's not really impacting our business today.

"In fact our primary issue in China today is that we're short of volume."

Mr Jager says that's a great place for any business to be in.

Last year Zespri's exports to China were worth $117 million, or 11% of its total business.

Zespri's net profit after tax for the year, taking into account funding of the response for PSA kiwifruit vine disease, fell from $16 million to $10 million.