Zespri calls in police over cross-border kiwifruit transfer
Zespri International has called in police to investigate the transfer of Gold3 and Gold9 kiwifruit varieties into China that may have been done illegally.
Last year the Mount Maunganui-based international fruit marketer started investigating reports that a kiwifruit licence had been sold to a third party, breaching the terms limiting transfers within a country, and it passed on that evidence to police in December which is investigating, it said in a statement.
"The purported sale of a licence from one jurisdiction to another by a third party is a breach of Zespri's licences and plant variety rights, and potentially could give rise to allegations of fraud or misleading conduct," Zespri said. "In this case, Zespri suspects that several years ago plant material was transferred and planted in China on a relatively small scale."
Earlier this year Zespri said it would licence more of its Gold3 variety in Italy, having already signalled plans to release more land for the kiwifruit in 2018, 2019 and 2020 based on the fruit's performance and global demand.
Chief operating officer Simon Limmer today said the company was taking the action to protect its variety rights and deter future breaches.
"Zespri's plant variety rights are important intellectual property, developed through extensive investment over many years," Limmer said. "Although the plantings may be relatively small scale in this specific case, we have zero tolerance for any breaches that we identify, wherever they happen."
The company doesn't expect the investigation will have a material impact on the outlook for Gold3.
Zespri's currently assessing the tenders for 2017 Gold3 licences for 400 hectares of land and has previously said it expects to make an announcement this week.