Over the past three years there has been a race for kiwifruit packhouses to ensure they have enough packing and coolstore capacity to meet the extremely strong growth of the kiwifruit Zespri ‘SunGold’ variety which has proven to be so popular around the world says Hume Pack N Cool general manager of Operations, Piers Zajac-Wiggett.
“With the expected volumes for SunGold reaching up to 80-90 million in the next five years, the industry has had to make some significant capital investments to ensure they are able to pick, pack, and cool store the increasing volumes of this variety, as well as Hayward and other varieties,” says Piers.
This has seen facilities race to build additional coolstores, which has also resulted in increased investment in people, machines and technology to deal with the increasing volumes. However, this year has seen a real bump in the road on this upward journey.
“It has been a challenging season for the kiwifruit industry with a year of unforeseen low volumes and high reject rates due to the three cyclones we experienced.
“This bad weather brought significant wind and rain which had an adverse effect on the quality of the fruit. It came during a time of heavy investment and planning to meet the demands of the massive growth of this variety which has put financial pressure on facilities.”
Piers expects this will see the industry suspend capital projects as much as possible as they weather the storm of this season and begin to look to the return to more normal volumes next year.
“Already we have had good winter chill units this year which will set us up for the 2018 season, and if this is combined with a good growing season, the industry should be back on track.”