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Kiwifruit season gets underway


Friday 18th March 2011

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Orchardists have begun picking gold kiwifruit this week and early indications are that the 2011 season's fruit volumes will be similar to last year, with around 100 million trays of kiwifruit expected to be exported, Zespri supply chain general manager Sally Gardiner says.

"Growing conditions have been fantastic, with more rainfall and higher temperatures on average compared to last season and we are expecting a great crop as a result," she said.

The harvest is expected to employ about 25,000 people, mostly seasonal workers, and Zespri is working with other agencies to help find seasonal work for those displaced by the Christchurch earthquake last month.

Scott Wilson of Gisborne grower Kaiaponi Farms' - one of the first orchards to start picking - said: "We have had a fantastic growing season, the fruit is looking great with high taste".

Post-harvest operator Opac was packing some of the first fruit.

The first of the Zespri crop will be shipped from New Zealand next week and will start to arrive in overseas markets in mid-April.

In spite of ongoing global economic uncertainty and the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the key north Asian market of Japan Zespri was confident that there would again be strong demand, Ms Gardiner said.

The industry was also coping with the vine canker, which had so far affected less than 2 percent of the industry's orchards.

"Customers will not see any impact on sales volumes in our overseas markets this year," she said.

Among the early season fruit to be picked are two of the new kiwifruit cultivars: an early gold variety, and an earlier, sweeter green variety which were released to growers in June last year for commercial use.

A third variety, a potentially long-storing gold variety was also released to growers at the same time and Zespri's director of corporate and grower services, Carol Ward, said the licences for these cultivars were eagerly snapped up.

Zespri has confirmed at least 200ha of kiwifruit variety licences will be made available to kiwifruit growers in June this year.

First Gold, another new variety of early gold kiwifruit, owned by Y356 Ltd and part of a collaborative marketing arrangement with Zespri, was harvested last week, and a Gisborne company First Fresh will manage the consumer trial of the fruit.

Fruit was already on the water to Singapore and Thailand with arrival in the marketplace timed for late March or early April, First Fresh managing director, Ian Albers, said


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