Zespri may work with illegal kiwifruit growers in China in bid to stem growth of unauthorised plantings

Zespri is taking a pragmatic approach.
Zespri is taking a pragmatic approach. Photo credit: Getty

In a case of 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em', Zespri says it is considering working with illegal kiwifruit growers in China.

Although the exporter has the rights to the Sun Gold, or G3, kiwifruit, unauthorised plantings in China have skyrocketed in recent months, causing concern for growers here.

Zespri estimates illegal planting in China have almost doubled - from around 2500 hectares to around 4000 hectares - in the past six months.

Earlier this year, the company said it was considering legal action against the growers but now there is a chance it may work together with the growers.

Dave Courtney, chief grower and alliances officer at Zespri, told RNZ on Thursday it is hoped the move would limit even more illegal plantings from going ahead.   

"It's a sort of pragmatic solution," he said.

"As things look today there's going to be a substantial amount of locally grown G3 in the market and so what we're thinking is if we can procure some of that to hold our shelf space." 

The company had looked at a number of "different pathways", Courtney said, including visiting China to talk to other businesses - "including some pretty big international brands" - that produces or procure food in the country in order to learn from them.

"Some have failed and others have skinned their knees and been quite successful. So there's certainly enough light there to show that it can be done, but everyone in the end has to strike their own path. So while we'll learn from these guys we'll have to make our own way forward too," Courtney told RNZ.

"So we need to get our hands dirty, basically."

He said Zespri would initially run a small trial cooperating with some illegal local growers to see how a possible supply chain could work.