By Dave Courtney,
Chief Grower and Alliances Officer, Zespri International
New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry is known for its collaboration and amidst the uncertainty of COVID-19, this season’s efforts have been no different.
It was very positive to see that even with the challenges imposed by COVID-19 on the industry it was able to start earlier than it ever has in terms of shipping fruit to market, with our first chartered reefer ship leaving Tauranga Harbour for Tokyo and Kobe in late March.
As a food producer and an essential service, the industry has taken its ability to continue operating through the Level 4 lockdown seriously, with new measures developed and enhanced hygiene practices in place, to keep staff safe while working to deliver the season’s kiwifruit.
This positive trend has continued, with more trays of fruit picked, packed and shipped compared to previous seasons, and they have also arrived in markets earlier than in previous seasons.
At the time of writing, the industry had already packed almost half of the estimated crop for the season, with almost a quarter of the total crop shipped to Zespri’s major markets with Japan, China and Europe all successfully receiving fruit. In total we’re expecting a crop of around 600,000 tonnes worth of Zespri SunGold and Green.
Early sales in our markets like China and Japan have been positive, and though it’s early in the season, we have seen strong demand for fresh produce across other key markets.
We’ve also had Zespri Red back in local supermarkets following the Zespri board’s decision to commercialise this variety last year. Zespri Red has also returned to Singapore this season, and we have just delivered our newest variety to Japanese consumers for the first time.
In terms of sales there is still a long way to go, with just more than five percent of the crop sold at the time of writing. While the positive start has been great, we recognise that given how quickly the world changes in response to Covid-19, there will be ongoing challenges for the rest of the 2020 selling season.