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After a harsh 2008 for many kiwifruit growers, the 2009 season looks set to boost returns for growers who are beginning to pick green kiwifruit crops nearly two weeks ahead of schedule.
The first shipment, 560 pallets of Zespri’s gold kiwifruit, is already on its way to Kobe, Japan this week, and should arrive on April 6.
The first shipments of Zespri’s traditional green kiwifruit are scheduled to arrive in China mid-April and in Europe at the end of April to capitalise on early season marketing programmes.
Zespri anticipates a squeeze on prices for kiwifruit in the coming sale season, which is heavily dependent on overseas markets’ response to the recession.
Despite tough sales conditions late last year, the final forecast payment for the 2008/09 season was only down by 2c from the December predictions, at $7.53 per tray.
The company has been holding meetings with growers to discuss issues facing the industry for the season ahead.
The last year has caused concern for growers, many of who only managed to break even on their harvest.
It costs on average $20,000-22,000 per hectare to produce green kiwifruit.
Last year the average grower return was around $24,000, leading many growers to tear up vines.
This year Zespri is projecting a far healthier return of around 30,000-31,000p/ha.
Zespri is planning to ship in bulk volumes this year and has secured the Sunbelt Spirit, a refrigerated cargo carrier, to shift the largest ever single shipment of Zespri kiwifruit, 7,300 pallets, due to arrive at the beginning of May.
Zespri’s new chief executive Lain Jager says that consumer demand is very high.
Worldwide demand for green kiwifruit has also been growing year on year, says Mr Jager who projects volumes to grow by 10 million trays over the next two years.
“Thanks to improved foreign exchange rates, reduced oil prices and a very strong 2009 crop we are well placed for a successful season,” Mr Jager says.
Around 25,000 people, mostly seasonal workers, will be employed by the New Zealand kiwifruit industry to harvest, pack and ship millions of kiwifruit over the coming months, boosting the local and domestic economy in troubled times.
“The kiwifruit industry is a key economic driver in the Bay of Plenty and generates revenues and flow-on revenues of around $2 billion annually, contributing 19 per cent to the region’s gross domestic product,” Peter Ombler of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers says.
Kiwifruit is still New Zealand’s largest horticultural sector export boasting 35% of New Zealand grown fruit and vegetable exports by value.
Fresh kiwifruit exports were valued at $779.5 million for the year ending 31 March 2008, up from $263 million in 1996.
Processed kiwifruit exports totalled $2.8 million in the year ending March 2008.