Zespri mulls next move against illegal Chinese kiwifruit planting

Zespri owns the rights to the gold fruit.
Zespri owns the rights to the gold fruit. Photo credit: Getty

Zespri's plan for dealing with Chinese growers who are illegally growing its New Zealand-bred fruit will be put to a vote.

Mid last year the New Zealand kiwifruit giant Zespri said it estimated unlawful Chinese plantings of the high valued fruit had doubled in just six months, to 4000 hectares.

Zespri owns the rights to the gold fruit, and there are 8000 hectares planted here. Last years growers paid over $400,000 for the right to plant one hectare of G3 - SunGold - vines.

In a bid to limit the unauthorised plantings, last year Zespri started considering running trials with the Chinese growers, seeing it as a win-win situation.

Recently its regulatory body Kiwifruit New Zealand said running a trial partnership with Chinese growers was more risky than it was comfortable with.

But Zespri senior executive Carol Ward said the business believed there was more risk by not working in with Chinese growers and it was asking its New Zealand producers to make the call.

"We do think that working out a commercial arrangement with growers is the best option to stay at the table, work with the local industry to mitigate risks around further plantings and protect our shelf space in our important retail chains," Ward said.

"Certainly while there are risks with the trial there are considerable risks if we do nothing. If growers choose not to support the trial we will continue with our avenues to work to protect our market position as much as we are able, in terms of legal remedies, or political conversations we're holding in China and New Zealand and also commercial avenues with our retailers and distributors, but we think that is not going to be enough to protect us in the long term and that is why we are moving to the next stage."

The vote will likely be held in June and if 75 percent of growers approve the plan, that will give Zespri the legal right to continue with a trial.

The organisation would be hoping to start one later this year.