All three of the new kiwifruit cultivars Zespri is releasing commercially appear to have a sound agronomic base and to offer a "good market proposition," Kiwifruit Growers' president Peter Ombler says.
"The combination of our industry structure and new opportunities such as this will lay the foundation for very significant future growth," he said today.
Zespri is releasing for commercial production two new gold cultivars capable of being marketed as variations on the hort16A zespri gold fruit, and a new sweet green kiwifruit, green14.
It said orchard trials had shown both the golds are likely to be as productive as the existing zespri gold vines – which earn about twice as much as conventional green vines – and cost no more to grow.
But the cultivars – gold3 for early-season crops, and gold9, with long-storage potential – will help Zespri sell gold kiwifruit for 30 weeks rather than the existing 20 weeks.
The sweet green will be exported to premium markets and decisions about how it will be branded will be made next year, according to Zespri managers, who see strong potential for sales at the start of the season, with the novelty of the sweet variety likely to also attract new consumers.
Zespri said an initial 200ha will be planted in its new green variety – which will be comparable in production costs and yields to its existing green kiwifruit – and similar acreages will be planted in each of the gold cultivars.
The company also announced it will put out two red cultivars for orchard trials, and Mr Ombler said growers looked forward to testing the new reds in commercial trials.
"Many growers were anticipating this announcement and will now get into growing these new varieties to take advantage of their future potential," he said.
"New varieties have the potential to take the NZ kiwifruit industry to new levels of productivity and markedly increase the industry's export revenue - this is a real step change for the industry."
Zespri had indicated a phased release with more information to be gathered on each variety over coming seasons, and further development of branding and marketing plans, but Mr Ombler said growers would particularly be looking for information about on-orchard practices, storage and consumer preference data from in-market trials.
Growers will be given detailed information on Monday about the new varieties.
The two red cultivars going into orchard trials are on a shortlist for future commercialisation.
A privately owned rival, Turners and Growers, recently launched a legal challenge to Zespri because it wants to be able to export its own red and gold cultivars, and an early green fruit it has licensed, without putting them though the development trials and assessments like the Zespri fruit.
Zespri argues that New Zealand should only export the best and most commercially successful cultivars, but T&G is trying to break the Zespri monopoly on sales outside Australasia because it says that if it controls the plant variety right for a cultivar, it should be allowed to export that fruit in competition with the rest of the NZ-grown crop.
Zespri chief executive Lain Jager said the decisions were vitally important steps in the continuing development of the New Zealand kiwifruit industry, and part of its medium- and long-term strategy to progressively and sustainably grow sendings from this country "while taking care not to cannibalise existing sales and prices."