24 Jul 2010

Kiwifruit growers 'frustrated' at representation

2:03 pm on 24 July 2010

The chairman of a newly-formed kiwifruit growers group says the organisation has been formed out of sheer frustration with Zespri and the way growers are being represented.

A meeting of growers in Tauranga recently resolved to form the Independent Kiwifruit Growers Association, to provide grassroots growers with an independent voice.

The chairman, Marcus Wilkins believes the independent body represents at least a third of kiwifruit growers.

He says growers have looked for changes in Zespri and its industry structure for some time, but felt they weren't being listened to by existing organisation Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI).

Mr Wilkins says the new group has written to Zespri saying it wants to see more accountability and transparency in respect of grower funds.

'Support for current structure'

NZKGI president Peter Ombler believes the organisation effectively represents growers' and is independent of Zespri.

He says the organisation has never been in a stronger position, and a recent survey of growers backs that up.

Mr Ombler also believes there's also huge grower support for the current industry structure.

He says NZKGI is funded through Zespri, but it is using grower money.

The organisation has invited members of the new independent growers group to its next forum to air their concerns, Mr Ombler says.

Kiwifruit court case

Separately, a High Court hearing of a case challenging the kiwifruit industry's single-desk marketing structure ends in Auckland on Friday.

Fresh produce company Turners & Growers is claiming that current regulations that give Zespri a monopoly control over most export markets are unlawful.

The High Court will consider whether the export regulations are unlawful and if it has jurisdiction to decide whether Zespri has been acting in breach of other regulations.

Other issues raised by Turners & Growers about Zespri will be heard in a further trial, early next year.