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Kiwifruit: “Rising to the challenge”

Dan Mathieson, Zespri CEO

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Zespri and the New Zealand kiwifruit industry have faced a particularly challenging 2022 season.

The ongoing impact of Covid-19 across the global supply chain, the shortage of people, rising costs and poorer fruit quality have presented significant headwinds for our industry.

Some of these are expected to remain in front of us for the 2023 season, where we anticipate having smaller than expected crop volumes following the significant frost event across the Waikato and Bay of Plenty and relatively poor budbreak.

While this is a challenging environment for growers and our industry, what continues to give us confidence is the fact that more and more people around the world continue to see value in and want more of the great quality and healthy kiwifruit our growers produce.

After a very tough couple of seasons, our industry is doubling down its focus on finding solutions to our immediate and longer term challenges, and looking to come out stronger as we go into 2023 and the years ahead.

We have some of the most innovative and passionate growers in the world – many of whom are based here in the Bay, strong partnerships throughout our global supply chain, a globally-recognised brand which consumers trust, and a group of resilient people committed to providing customers and consumers with the world’s best kiwifruit.

It’s these attributes that will continue to allow us to address the challenges we’re facing, and bring value back to our growers and our communities in 2023 and in the years ahead.

As much as we’re focused on looking to address our short-term headwinds, we’re also making sure that we’re considering how we best achieve our long-term growth potential.

We know that consumers today are not just making purchasing decisions based on a product, but on how it is produced and the impact it has on the environment.

There is an increasing expectation from stakeholders that businesses have to look at climate change with the same focus as they look at financial forecasts, and a very clear expectation from customers and consumers that more sustainable practice should be built into how a company grows and obtains value for its products.

Our work in this space continues, and we’ve already made steady progress towards the goals and long-term sustainability commitments we’ve set. We’ve set out our Climate Change Strategy, identified our key Climate Change Risks and Opportunities, invested in innovation to explore new cultivars that may thrive in a warmer climate and continued our research to better understand how we can best mitigate the impact of climate change.

And this week, we’ve released a Climate Change Adaptation Plan – Adapting to Thrive in a Changing Climate – which outlines how our industry intends to adapt to a changing climate both here in New Zealand and in our offshore growing locations so that we can transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.

We’re an industry that is already experiencing and responding to climate change, with growers adjusting their growing practices and post-harvest facilities adjusting the packing of fruit, in light of warmer temperatures.

Our plan considers the impact of climate change not just from a physical perspective, but also the changes we’re likely to see at a regulatory level, along with the heightened expectation from our customers and consumers that we are adapting our approach.

It includes more than 40 actions Zespri and the wider industry will build on over time to future-proof the growing and breeding of kiwifruit, maintain fruit quality and manage supply, and protect the industry’s financial future.

This includes supporting growers to adopt climate resilient practices like efficient water use, investing in climate-resilient cultivars with the Kiwifruit Breeding Centre, developing a future-focused climate research programme which assesses the effects of climate change on productivity and profitability, and lessening our exposure to carbon costs by reducing emissions.

We know there’s a lot of work to do, but by co-ordinating our efforts as an industry we’ll be more effective, putting us in the best position to continue to deliver sustainable returns to our growers and industry as the climate continues to change.

Our industry faces a bright future if we continue to make positive decisions and grow in a way which is good for our communities and the environment.

With kiwifruit representing less than 1 percent of the global fruit bowl, and demand growing quickly as the world focuses on health and wellbeing and plant-based diets, it’s critical we continue to look ahead to strengthen our industry’s future and be ready for the opportunities and challenges in front of us.

We’re committed to doing that by growing in a sustainable and purposeful way that adds value for growers and our communities right here in the Bay.

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