Concerns over Green kiwifruit grower’s returns, costs and the fruit’s future have prompted New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated to give orchardists the opportunity to air their issues with industry leaders in coming weeks.
This season the majority of Green growers will fail to make a profit and in some cases will fail to break even, having experienced two back-to-back challenging seasons.
Two years ago the sector was hit by a major labour shortage that contributed to significant quality issues, while last year seasonal challenges included a late spring frost, floods and storm damage, which severely impacted volumes.
At the start of this year Green growers had 50c a tray sliced off last year’s crop due to ongoing quality issues, having already suffered a $1.95 tray reduction last August. In total the variety faced a downgrade of $2.80 a tray on quality grounds, or almost $180 million.
NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) CEO Colin Bond said a Green grower symposium intends to share the results of a grower survey that was prompted by the tough times, and put forward industry leaders from across the sector for growers to discuss concerns.
There are also concerns over how much Green would be eclipsed by SunGold, its higher value cousin, in coming years.
“As a proportion of total fruit, Green is now under well less than 50%, with SunGold at about 100 million trays and Green only about 50 million. I think that gap is likely to only get wider as SunGold continues to grow, while Green stays static,” Bond said.
He said despite current challenges, Green still represents a good horticultural return compared to most crops and growers will have the opportunity get under the hood on its future. The symposium will be held in Te Puke and Katikati, with the Te Puke seminar also available online.
Traditionally Green has held strong appeal in European markets. But traditional Green markets such as Spain are also experiencing strong growth for SunGold’s uniformly appealing taste.
“The challenge with Green is that the costs you incur are not a lot different from SunGold, and as SunGold demand grows, it will see greater demand for resources to that variety.”
Labour costs, which have seen a major increase in recent years, are relatively indifferent between the varieties.
Bond was coy about releasing the survey’s results before running the symposium over November 8 and 9.
“But we can say we will have Zespri coming to talk about the market and category’s future and potential new cultivars. Kiwifruit NZ will also be there to discuss the collaborative programme and how Green is performing in that.”
Post-harvest processors will also be available to answer concerns about whether Green still fits into post-harvest business models.
“The simple answer to that is ‘Yes it does.’ Its timing means they get better utilisation of their packing plant and equipment.”
After attending the recent international kiwifruit conference in Chile, Bond said he had come back realising the issues NZ growers have are shared by growers across the world.
“The top three challenges identified two years ago were labour, regulations and climate change. Now climate change is top of the list.”
He said delegates also agreed that Zespri’s marketing efforts had helped grow the entire kiwifruit category globally by providing a good consumer eating experience.
“But the challenge there is to maintain our standards as countries like Chile get more growers on board for lifting quality standards.”