18 Jul 2013

Kiwifruit sales to China unaffected, says growers' group

10:17 am on 18 July 2013

The kiwifruit growers organisation says it appears recent legal problems affecting marketer Zespri in China will not have a long-term negative effect on business there.

The organisation started its own investigation in March, after Zespri's China subsidiary was found guilty of the underpayment of customs duties on kiwifruit imports.

The subsidiary was fined more than $950,000 and an employee was sentenced to five years in prison. The sentences have been upheld on appeal.

Kiwifruit Growers' president Neil Trebilco says it seems the issue has solely been about payment of duties, which consumers don't seem to be terribly concerned about in comparison to food safety, and initial indications are that sales have not been affected.

Mr Trebilco says the silver lining is that Zespri will come out of it with a much better relationship with the Chinese authorities.

Mr Trebilco says what New Zealand is experiencing is typical of what other countries encounter in doing business in China. "The key learning for us has been, in our industry, is that you have to make sure that you build relationships and you've got to build relationships obviously not only with the importers but with the authorities as well, to make sure that you're doing what you need to do."