(UPDATED COVERAGE, May 31) Despite widespread damage caused by a bacterial vine disease, New Zealand kiwifuit shippers are confident they will have enough product to meet North American demand this summer.
Some of that demand will be met, later in the summer, by a new gold kiwifruit variety more resistant to the disease.
The first shipments of New Zealand fruit to North America arrived on May 25, said Michele Hoard, senior marketing manager for Zespri Americas, a division of Mount Maunganui, New Zealand-based Zespri International Ltd., the exclusive exporter of the country’s kiwifruit.
The vine disease, pseudomonas syringae pv actinidiae, or PSA, has been found in more than 40% of New Zealand’s kiwifruit acreage, but there should still be ample volume to meet U.S. demand this summer, Hoard said.
A New Zealand variety that is much more resistant to PSA, known as the Gold3, will likely be on U.S. shelves later in the season, Hoard said.
Responding to reports that some New Zealand kiwifruit growers are seeing PSA damage in G3 plantings, David Courtney, Zespri’s senior communications advisor, said that while no kiwifruit varieties are resistant to the disease, the G3 is much more tolerant than other varieties.
“What is being observed is when G3 is infected by PSA, it appears to have the ability to grow through the disease in most cases,” he said. “ This is in contrast to Hort16A, where the disease most often rapidly progresses to vine collapse and the need to cut out vines/ orchards.”
On May 29, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $13-14 for 19.8 pound cartons of haywards 25-27 from Chile, down from $14-15 last year at the same time.
Chilean markets were beginning to soften in the second half of May, said Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager for Stellar Distributing Inc., Madera, Calif.
“Chile has gone very, very well, but we see a lot now shipping into the U.S.,” Cappelluti said May 25.
“Two weeks ago we started seeing a lot more volume. But it’s been a very solid year thus far.”
Good quality has helped keep demand strong for Chilean kiwifruit this spring, he said. One key was that Stellar did not bring in as many haywards early in the deal, Cappeulluti said.
The entrance of New Zealand into the kiwifruit deal shouldn’t worry importers of Chilean fruit too much, he said, given Zespri’s commitment to keeping markets strong.