23 Jul 2015

Zespri boosts price for bumper gold crop

2:30 pm on 23 July 2015

Kiwifruit marketer Zespri has boosted its latest price forecast for gold kiwifruit, but lowered it slightly for the main green variety as it works through a record production season.

Zespri also reported a big lift in its sales and returns for the past season at its annual general meeting in Tauranga yesterday.

Zespri chief executive Lain Jager speaking at the kiwifruit marketer's 2015 AGM.

Zespri chief executive Lain Jager. Photo: SUPPLIED

Zespri chief executive Lain Jager said based on current sales and market performance, it was now expecting gold returns to increase by almost $1 a tray this year over its earlier May forecast.

"In May for gold, we forecast a range of $6.70 - $7.20 [per tray]. Our July forecast is up $7.60 - $7.90, really reflecting very strong run rates for gold, and reduced promotional investment on the back of those strong run rates.

"For green, we've got a very big green crop this year, yields of 11,000 trays per hectare, up from 9000 trays last year. And so, while the green season is going well, with strong sales rates, those high volumes mean we'll be selling later. There are some higher costs associated with that, so the green forecast is now $4.80 - $5.20, just down a little from $5 - $5.50 in the May forecast."

Both the gold and green price forecasts are well down on last season's per tray returns, but Mr Jager said 2014 was an extraordinary year, with severe frosts in Chile contributing to a global shortage of kiwifruit.

Zespri ended up with a 16 percent increase in its export returns from sales of 95 million trays.

It is expecting its biggest ever selling season this year with more than 118 million trays - 5 million more than the previous record season in 2011, before the Psa vine disease made its impact.

  • Watch excerpts from AGM ( video supplied by Zespri)

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers president Neil Trebilco said that was a fantastic turnaround, but the threat from Psa was still lurking and an ongoing burden for growers.

"It's added around 10 percent extra costs to growers, at least," he said. "That's a significant extra cost and you don't make that up easily, so it's one of those things that unfortunately we just have to live with."

He said wind and rain not only helped the disease spread but caused wounding on plants, which allowed the disease to get inside plants.

"If we have a really bad weather period, particularly during spring which is the key period for us and we're coming up to that now, Psa could again rear its ugly head."

He said controlling the disease took time and effort.

"There's a whole lot of hygiene requirements on orchards now that we didn't used to have to follow... For example, that we disinfect our pruning tools between each plant."

Mr Trebilco said coping with the projected growth of the kiwifruit industry would also be a challenge, in areas such as labour - finding enough people for picking, packing and pruning.

He said growers were expecting Zespri's latest forecast of a drop in green kiwifruit prices, because of a record crop this season, but the forecast rise of almost $1 per tray for gold was an unexpected surprise, as the supply of that variety was also significantly up this year.

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