24 Oct 2013

ACT calls for ministerial inquiry into Zespri

7:53 am on 24 October 2013

The ACT Party has criticised the Minister for Primary Industries for not launching a ministerial inquiry into kiwifruit marketer Zespri.

Don Nicolson, the party's primary industries spokesperson, says ACT has been calling on Nathan Guy to launch a government inquiry into the marketer, following it being convicted and fined for its role in a kiwifruit smuggling scam in China.

Mr Nicolson says now that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating the company, it raises serious questions about Mr Guy's refusal to look into it.

He says Zespri is a government legislated body and the minister has been slow out of blocks to take the problems surrounding the body seriously.

Mr Nicolson says the entire kiwifruit industry relies on Zespri's reputation and growers are now very vulnerable.

Yet Zespri recorded its highest ever orchard gate return to growers last season, an average of $51,000 a hectare.

Returns to growers from Zespri's sales in China last season increased by 20%.

But Mr Nicolson says Zespri's repeated trading fines and the SFO investigation show it should be doing better.

In a statement, Nathan Guy said "in the interests of justice", he would wait for the outcomes of the Serious Fraud Office and Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated investigations before making any further decision.

He says he expects any company exporting overseas to follow the proper rules and laws.

Mr Guy argued the ACT party has always wanted to remove Zespri's role as a single-desk seller, and they are just using this issue to push that.

He says the majority of kiwifruit growers support Zespri's role and want it to continue.