Illegal plantings of New Zealand's high valued gold kiwifruit variety, Sun Gold, have almost doubled in the past six months in China.
Zespri owns the rights to Sun Gold, or G3, and growers here pay hundreds of thousands to dollars per hectare to grow it.
Six months ago the marketing organisation believed there were about 2500 hectares of unauthorised plantings in China. That has now climbed to 4000 hectares. (New Zealand has 7500 hectares of Sun Gold planted.)
A senior executive, Dave Courtney, said Zespri is watching the situation closely.
"A key thing we need to understand is the quality of the fruit they can produce there, because if it's high quality and equal to what we produce out of New Zealand and our other growing locations then it's more of a threat than if it was a low quality offering. Unfortunately, it looks like there is a good portion of orchards that can produce good quality fruit," he said.
At present the Chinese orchards are not high producers, but if they learn to grow it well, Courtney said it could push New Zealand fruit off supermarket shelves, and lower prices.
It would also be going head on with Zespri's Italian grown fruit which arrives later in the year.
Eradicating the plantings is not possible but Zespri is about to start legal action against a nursery in China, using the PVR (Plant Variety Right) law to slow plantings down.
Courtney acknowledged it was a difficult path to take, and quite different to taking proceedings against growers, as they have, in Italy and New Zealand.
China recognises New Zealand's PVR ownership but officials from the growing regions say they have to work in small scale peasant communities which are growing the vines. As a result Courtney said they are interested in some sort of "win-win."
"Where they can work with us to help us mitigate the impact of the spread (of the vines) but they can also maybe add value to their local growers as well."
Courtney said this is a very new idea, only put forward in recent weeks, so Zespri is very much "at the start of the process."
Growers will be kept informed about discussions and there is a long way to go before any decisions are made, he said.