Zespri‘s failed trial bid draws mixed views

Zespri owns the rights to SunGold but believes there are at least 5500ha of unauthorised plantings in China. File photo Photo: RNZ/Jane Patterson.

A failed bid by Zespri to tackle illegal SunGold plantings in China is being met with mixed reaction by the kiwifruit industry.

On Friday it was announced Zespri had not gained the support needed to proceed with a commercial trial, which would involve working with some unauthorised SunGold growers in China.

Zespri owns the rights to SunGold but believes there are at least 5500ha of unauthorised plantings in China.

New Zealand kiwifruit growers were recently asked to vote on the proposal. Nearly 71 per cent supported the plan, narrowly missing the 75 per cent threshold required.

Tauranga grower David Jensen, from Puketiro Orchard, says he has been in favour of the trial because the industry has to find a way around an issue that is not going to go away.

Jensen says most of the growers he has spoken to have been supportive and it's difficult to understand what alternative solution there is.

"China is such a large market for us both in terms of volume and value, that we can't walk away from it. So we actually have to find a way to participate in the marketplace and I guess reduce the risk. So to that extent, I was reasonably comfortable of what's being proposed."

Seeka is New Zealand's largest kiwifruit grower. Company chief executive Michael Franks says it has voted against the proposal because there are too many risks.

The trial proposed by Zespri is small and will not really achieve anything, Franks says.

"There's a great risk to the brand itself and the opportunity to lose a lot of intellectual property in how you actually handle that fruit. So, you know, I think that from our perspective, the risks, in our own opinion, outweigh the benefit."

Franks expects Zespri will repackage its proposal and present it to growers again in the future.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated chief executive Colin Bond says the strong voter turnout shows this is an issue that growers are very engaged in.

He says growers have received a lot of information ahead of the vote, which has helped them make an informed decision.

"I think we all understand how critical this is for for where we go next, as an industry.

"So the outcome is the outcome. The important thing from here is to respect the respective process and respect the growers' views and move on together as an industry."

-RNZ/Maja Burry.

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