One of the world’s largest and most sophisticated post-harvest operation, located in Tauranga, is dropping its green kiwifruit packing prices in a bid to boost the New Zealand industry once again.
The 21 per cent drop has been made possible thanks to Mount Pack & Cool’s (Mpac) significant foresight and investment programme spanning five years, which has seen its new Tauriko site become a world class model of automation, streamlining, and efficiency.
“We’ve been able to do this because we started with a blank canvas in 2017, buying the land in Tauriko and designing and building the ultimate post-harvest operation to optimise efficiencies,” says Mpac managing director Brendon Lee.
“This investment and the resulting operation mean we can now make this significant move to support green kiwifruit growers – a move that we believe is needed to reinvigorate the struggling variety.”
The green kiwifruit industry has been the backbone of the New Zealand kiwifruit industry for more than 30 years, now overtaken by gold. But green’s recovery is critical not just because of its direct impact on the livelihoods of green growers, but those growing the more popular gold.
“The packing of green offsets the price of packing gold, it’s as simple as that. What’s good for green, is good for the gold and the whole industry,” says Brendon.
“Without the green packing cycle between March and June, which predominantly comes after the gold, it will be twice as costly at post-harvest for gold and then we’ll find that part of the industry straining.
“Green growers are doing it tough financially – they have been for a while. We believe that the green industry is under threat of becoming extinct if the industry leaders like us don’t step in and make bold moves to support the industry to be financially feasible.
“At Mpac we see a future for green – it’s still in demand around the world, we just need to keep it commercially viable by providing a good, competitive service and packing price for the growers. Green is a crucial part of the kiwifruit portfolio.”
The 21 per cent price drop, equating to a new price of $1.29 per tray, reflects the pricing of some years ago, and a 70-cent differentiation compared to some other post-harvest operations.
“It’s this lever around pricing and service that we can pull at a time that it’s needed. It’s a significant drop, which will be material for green growers.”
The Mpac site has set the standard for post-harvest kiwifruit facilities around the world. Visitors from the apple and citrus industry in the United States to the Tauriko site have taken note and hailed it as world leading.
Its 54,000sqm, state of the art packing lines and bin curing rooms, 25 controlled atmosphere (CA) stores and 22 coolstores make the site the largest individual kiwifruit post-harvest site in New Zealand, and the world, employing 300 people.
It gives Mpac the capacity to handle over 35 million trays of Class 1 kiwifruit across its total site.
Brendon says there was a sense of pride amongst growers that the development had enabled such high-quality infrastructure.
“Not only are we creating a safer work environment for staff, but we have the capacity to pack their fruit when they need it at harvest time, optimise their packouts, and deliver the best financial returns.
“When it comes to the global kiwifruit industry – there’s nothing comparable anywhere else in the world. American visitors in apples and citrus and they said they’ve never witnessed this level of integration across, size, layout, automation, and scale. It is one of a kind.
“We had a vision for Tauriko and were pioneers in establishing a completely new site from scratch. This allowed us to uphold an uncompromised approach to its design. The automations mean we’re well positioned to mitigate well-documented labour issues.”
Brendon says that while the site offers fewer seasonal jobs, the automation has meant more permanent, skilled, higher-paid jobs for kiwis who have trained in the software and systems to run the site.
“And there are still seasonal jobs for anyone who wants them,” says Brendon.
Mpac hopes its latest move to drop green packing prices will be the wake-up call other industry players need to look further into the future and recognise the importance of the green variety and its longevity.
“We can’t neglect green. We must take a long-term view and ensure we’re doing everything we can to nurture the prosperity of green growers into the future.”