As a result of a vote by kiwifruit grower-shippers, the Sacramento-based California Kiwifruit Commission was disbanded Sept. 30.

In a grower referendum last fall, growers representing 48.9% of the state’s kiwifruit volume voted to continue the commission, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. A vote of at least 65% was needed to keep the commission active.

Some grower-shippers were hopeful that another organization may be able to step up its support of the industry.

“We’re petitioning the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) to expand the role of the Kiwifruit Administrative Committee to include some research and possibly some promotion,” said John Fagundes, president of Cal Harvest Marketing Inc., Hanford, Calif.

The commission was a state marketing order, while the administrative committee is a federal marketing order.

Dissolution of the commission, established in 1979, means that the state will lose its federal Market Access Program funding for promotions in foreign markets, Fagundes said.

“We won’t have that promotional arm promoting California kiwifruit abroad this season,” he said, adding that “time will tell” what effect that will have on the state’s kiwifruit exports.

There’s a possibility that the MAP function could be picked up by the committee, but that would be a long way off.

The Kiwifruit Administrative Committee is very limited as to what it can do, said Chris Zanobini, president of the committee and of the California Kiwifruit Commission.

The committee can’t conduct public relations, marketing promotion or research activities, he said, “but at least there is an organization that is doing statistical work, crop information and things of that nature,” he said.

Mike Noland, president of Wild River Marketing Inc., Marysville, Calif., is among many growers who are sorry to see the commission go.

“I’m disappointed we won’t have it,” he said.

Noland said the commission provided a “cohesive industry voice” as well as research and promotional efforts.

Steve Riley, director of sales for Regatta Tropicals Ltd., Grover Beach, Calif., said his father and his father’s best friend were two driving forces in establishing the commission. Riley himself was chairman of the advertising and promotion committee for six years.

“I’m very sad the commission is not going to be around anymore,” he said.

Some growers simply didn’t want to pay the assessment of 6 cents per box, he said, despite the good the commission did for the industry.

“There’s a lot of benefit that growers receive from getting statistical information,” said Doug Phillips, president and owner of Phillips Farms Marketing, Visalia, Calif.

The research function will be missed, especially if bacterial canker that has hit kiwifruit orchards in other countries spreads to the U.S., he said.

“We won’t have any research or an organization to combat it,” Fagundes said.

Even if USDA permits growers to vote on expanding the Kiwifruit Administrative Committee, a referendum still is about 18 months away, he said.

Doug Wilson, president and owner of Wil-Ker-Son Ranch and Packing Co., Gridley, Calif., blamed grower apathy for the demise of the commission.