NZ’s plan to produce red kiwifruit

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers CEO Nikki Johnson.

Kiwifruit crop volumes are likely to be down next season as a result of variable bud break which may be related to weather during winter and spring, says Nikki Johnson, CEO of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers.

While a drop in volume may mean issues of crop management faced this year are unlikely to return next year and may benefit the industry over-all with a potential increase in per tray returns, Nikki says some individual growers could be severely impacted through decreased orchard production.

“NZKGI is very mindful of the challenges some growers may face this season.”

Those challenges illustrate how vulnerable kiwifruit and all primary industries are to the impacts of weather. It was exceptionally favourable growing conditions last summer and autumn which contributed to the 2015-2016 harvest breaking volume records.

However, Nikki says there were issues from the late harvest of the fruit. There was also a 32 per cent increase in kiwifruit export volumes which resulted in the application of crop management.

Managing fruit volumes and growth, especially of the highly popular SunGold variety, is an issue facing the industry going forward. “There will be another release of gold licences by Zespri soon and managing gold and green volumes will become increasingly important including from a capacity perspective, including labour.”

Nod to the future – NZKGI’s new logo features a red kiwifruit.

NZKGI is so confident New Zealand growers will soon be growing a red kiwifruit too, that it has included a red variety in its new logo.

“That’s a nod to the future. We don’t have a red kiwifruit ready for commercial production yet but as soon as researchers crack the issues of colour, taste and storage we will be on to a winner.”

Nikki, who took over the role of CEO six months ago, has recently returned from an overseas fact finding tour which included visiting China. “Red kiwifruit are very important in China which does grow its own red fruit.” However, she believes a New Zealand red would be of superior quality.

The logo – launched at the NZKGI annual meeting in August, will also feature on the grower organisation’s website which is currently being re-designed. “Among the aims are to streamline the website and make it the first portal growers go to when they have questions. It will enable them to link to others websites to find information, including from Zespri, regional councils, government websites and more.”

In August the Government approved amendments to the Kiwifruit Export Regulations which among other provisions, will allow for alignment of shareholding in Zespri with producing growers, maintain critical grower input to regulator Kiwifruit New Zealand through the board’s make up and expand the definition of Zespri’s core business.

“The regulations are now being drafted by the Ministry for Primary Industries and we are hopeful they will go to cabinet before the end of the year. NZKGI will be in consultation with MPI once the final wording of the regulations is released and the industry is aiming to implement the changes requested by growers in the Kiwifruit Industry Strategy Project (KISP) by mid next year.”

NZKGI has begun the process of monitoring Zespri’s performance to ensure it is doing the best job it can for growers. “We will be appointing a new staff member in the next couple of months to oversee this work.”

NZKGI’s levy is up for review in March 2017. “We need 50 per cent support for the levy and 50 per cent by volume but the big issue is that growers do take part, whichever way they vote, as the volume of votes is key. NZKGI will be focusing on encouraging grower participation in the levy vote during our road shows and through communication with growers.” There are no plans to increase the rate of the levy from one cent per export tray, says Nikki.


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