New Zealand company plans investment in China

One of New Zealand’s largest producers of kiwifruit is considering the possibility of growing its variety of the fruit in China as part of a plan to source it from local growers and ensure a year-round supply.

Zespri International Ltd announced the plan on Thursday in Shanghai at the launch of the 2016 kiwifruit season, which is expected to set a record for sales.

“We anticipate sales of around 24 million trays in 2016, up about one-third from the 18 million trays sold last season,” said CEO Lain Jager.

The company is now aiming for a 30 percent growth in export volume this year.

China is already a major producer and consumer of the fruit, with the annual consumption reaching nearly 1.8 million tons in 2015, according to data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Zespri and the Shaanxi provincial government have reached an agreement to establish a center of excellence in the province to support research, expert exchanges, grower tours and scientific collaboration.

Both parties have also agreed to develop techniques to lift the quality of the fruit with sustainable production systems.

Jager said, in a few years, Zespri will start sourcing the fruit from Chinese growers to meet increasing local demand. Zespri will open offices in Chengdu and Chongqing to market its products in the western region of the country.

It is also investing in new partnerships and infrastructure and changing its import model to become the importer of record this year. That will give the grower greater control over the importation and distribution process..

Key market players said as tariffs on more fruit varieties are likely to go down in the next few years, China’s consumers will have more options, and competition in this sector may become fiercer.

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