New Zealand fruit supplies on track despite earthquake

06/16/2011 02:58:00 PM
Dan Gailbraith

Consumers across North America can expect good volumes of top-grade apples, pears, kiwifruit and other items from New Zealand this year, shippers and marketing agents say.

“It has been a quality season thus far,” said Eric Patrick, Yakima, Wash.-based marketing director for Grant J. Hunt Co., Oakland, Calif.

Growers and shippers say the industry was virtually untouched by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that struck the Canterbury region in New Zealand’s South island on Feb. 22.

The earthquake was centered near Christchurch, the country’s second-largest city, and damage estimates were in the range of $16 billion New Zealand dollars ($12 billion).

“While our friends and family members in the Christchurch area continue to rebuild and recover, we are relieved to report that our grower partners and logistics have not been affected,” said Steve Woodyear-Smith, kiwifruit category director with the Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oppenheimer Group.

“The earthquake was on the South Island and most of the kiwifruit growing area is on the North Island, in the Bay of Plenty,” said Michele Hoard, senior marketing manager with New Zealand kiwifruit marketer Zespri International Ltd.

“There wasn’t an impact on the orchards or harvest in the Bay of Plenty, but there are Zespri employees that have relatives affected by the earthquake,” she said.

Hoard said the Zespri office in Tauranga had a fundraiser to support the affected area.

Shipments of kiwifruit started to pick up in May and should continue into November, Patrick said.

“It’s been pretty steady,” said Patrick, whose company imports apples and kiwifruit from New Zealand.

The apple deal gets tougher each year, Patrick noted.

“It’s good, but it’s a window that keeps getting smaller and smaller as Washington’s season goes longer,” he said.

Supplies of kiwifruit should match up well with last year, Woodyear-Smith said.

“We’ll have consistent supplies of Zespri green, green organic and gold kiwifruit this season in roughly the same volumes as 2010,” he said.

The premium gold kiwifruit is getting particular attention this year, Woodyear-Smith added.

“While gold kiwifruit has become quite mainstream over the years, we are giving it particular focus this season, with strategic promotions occurring in each geographic region of North America,” he said.

The gold is in high demand worldwide, Patrick said.


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