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Bay of Plenty Region
Monday, March 8, 2021
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New labs for Zespri harvest test

Two Te Puke-based laboratories are among the six labs chosen to re-commence Zespri’s valuable taste profile testing on this season’s crop.

Pinpoint Laboratory Services and Verified Laboratory Services will be the Bay of Plenty providers for the taste sampling process that had to be ditched by the industry last year when the previous analytical lab Eurofins Bay of Plenty dropped the testing process.

Eurofins said the MPI protocols laid out under Covid operating conditions were too difficult to comply with over the harvest season.

Alastair Hulbert, Zespri’s chief global supply officer, said the industry underwent an intensive three-month process seeking expressions of interest in the extensive testing process.

“Independence had to be weighted against experience and the start-up or scale-up ability of the providers,” he said.

“The selected service providers include a combination of independent and post-harvest owned companies.”

Three season commitment

Hulbert confirmed the lab services would be providing the sampling test for the following three seasons.

The taste component based on dry matter analysis has become an increasingly valuable incentive component of fruit payment.

In 2019 the taste payment made up about 40 percent of total fruit and service payments on class one fruit.

The other labs include AgFirst in Hawke’s Bay and Nelson, Hill Laboratories in Hamilton and Linnaeus in Gisborne.

In response to the unexpected loss amid the Covid crisis that broke on the eve of harvest last year, the industry was compelled to remove taste payments across all varieties.

Payments for last year’s harvest were uniformly redistributed back to growers.

Early harvest kiwifruit growers are often the biggest beneficiaries of the taste profile payment through the KiwiStart programme, which has a large component of taste payment, compensating for early harvest’s impact on taste profile.

Zespri intends to carry out an education programme to familiarise the industry with the new system, which includes a new maturity software system.

With the newly commercialised Red kiwifruit now on the market, Zespri is also continuing to explore potential taste incentive arrangements as the volumes of the crop build.

In 2020, 150ha of the new Red fruit was licenced for planting.

Hulbert says there has been an adjustment to align grower behaviour with consumer preferences following a wide review of Zespri’s sampling and testing process for harvested fruit.

“This will allow us to continue to produce great tasting fruit and support an even
flow of fruit through the pack house.

“More broadly, ongoing consumer sensory research in our key markets will better inform any future changes that may be considered for the taste programme.”

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