Zespri Group told a court today it had "not acted in bad faith" in dealings with kiwifruit growers and distributors, and that statutory controls on exports of kiwifruit outside Australasia allowed for other growers to export.
Turners and Growers, a subsidiary of Sir Ron Brierley's investment company GPG, last year filed proceedings against Zespri and its subsidiary Zespri International in a bid to trigger deregulation of kiwifruit exports.
A four-day hearing started yesterday in the High Court at Auckland to consider the validity of kiwifruit export regulations giving Zespri a monopoly and whether the High Court has jurisdiction to determine if Zespri had discriminated against potential exporters or failed to allow diversification.
Counsel for Zespri Group, David Goddard QC, said the company had not acted in bad faith and an export regime could be considered.
"A permit regime could apply to certain kinds of fruit, with consideration given to the terms and conditions of such permits," he said. "This could restrict exports to North America and Europe, or a number of African countries to which Zespri does not export."
Kiwifruit export regulations provide for export under collaborative marketing procedures, as long as prospective exporters can show their proposal is in the best interests of the nation's kiwifruit growers.
But Turners and Growers wants to export its own gold, red and sweet green kiwifruit, without having them first assessed in comparison to the returns available from rival cultivars, such as Zespri's.
The independent industry regulator, Kiwifruit New Zealand, has previously turned down three Turners and Growers applications to export 325,000 trays of kiwifruit to Japan, Mexico and the United States. The company currently grows and sells New Zealand kiwifruit within Australasia equivalent to 1 percent of the sector's total production -- a bit over a million trays -- but wants to lift those exports to as much as 30 million trays.
The remaining issues in Turners and Growers case are scheduled to be heard in a six-week substantive hearing in the same court, beginning in May next year.
Turners and Growers has previously broken the control exercised by pipfruit growers over their own company in the wake of the deregulation of New Zealand Apple and Pear Marketing Board. In January 2003 it took over the pipfruit grower-owned company Enza.
NZPA and NBR Staff
Wed, 21 Jul 2010