NZKGI Chief Executive
On February 22, Zespri released two proposals for industry consultation which are reported on in this edition of Coast and Country.
As the representative grower organisation, we had sent to the Zespri board, before they released their proposals, what NZ Kiwifruit Growers considered the key principles were to assist with the design of the proposals.
What we will now do is through grower consultation and meetings, is find out what growers think about these proposals and reach a view. The NZ Kiwifruit Grower’s view will then be tabled at the next Zespri board meeting when they make the decision on which proposal (or variant of it) to adopt.
The proposals are designed to put the industry on a recovery pathway. We need a recovery pathway because the main gold variety of kiwifruit, Hort16A, dies when attacked by Psa-V. The progression from a healthy vine to a dying vine is often very fast. It leaves the grower with no way to grow a crop and make a living. To see cut out orchards where there are only stumps or just grass where there was once a thriving gold orchard is soul destroying.
We are fortunate that not all Golds, and certainly not Hayward – Green – kiwifruit are as susceptible to an attack from Psa-V as is Hort16A. Every different variety of kiwifruit has different tolerance levels to Psa-V. So the first step towards recovery is to identify the most Psa-V tolerant Gold variety that meets all the other conditions to be a successful crop for kiwifruit orchardists to grow. Some of the required characteristics are good on orchard yield, good keeping qualities and, most importantly, consumers like it, will repeat purchase and pay a good price for it.
Good taste and health attributes are important for consumer acceptance. Finding the perfect kiwifruit variety that fits all the requirements is not easy and takes many years.
The Gold variety that is being put forward by Zespri to replace Hort16A is a best fit today and for the next few years. It has its risks as it has only just been commercialised and we don’t know much about it. So each grower will need to consider his or her situation carefully and make a choice based on what is best for them. To ensure survival of this variety, a protective spray regime must be employed, particularly around wet and windy weather events which we now know spreads Psa-V around the countryside. Zespri cannot force growers to replace their Hort16A with this variety – each grower must make their own decision.
To put what Zespri is proposing in context, Kiwifruit Vine Health – the organisation set up by the industry to manage the industry’s response to Psa-V – has requested that the industry replace infected and at risk Hort16A, as a priority, due to its Psa vulnerability and threat to other varieties. This is because infected Hort16A has very high Psa-V inoculum levels and infects all the kiwifruit vines around it. Psa-V only attacks kiwifruit vines and does not affect any other plant.
The organisation I work for, NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated, has endorsed this request from KVH, but added that all non-Hort16A growers, i.e. Green growers and others, must also have their opportunity to change varieties if they so wish as well.
Zespri, as the main kiwifruit exporter and marketer, needs to first, retain markets by replacing Gold volume that is disappearing as Hort16A vines die; second, continue to grow the Gold category in our overseas markets at a sensible rate so that demand is always ahead of supply; and third, ensure that growers as owners of the industry, (including owning Zespri), are generally satisfied with the terms offered to growers both Hort16A and others.
This is where NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated has a critical role to play. We having meetings to consider the Zespri proposal and then a Forum Meeting, like our Parliament, to determine our position on the Zespri proposal. All growers are invited to these meetings which are being held. Growers are encouraged to come along and have their say. Or if you are not able to make one of the meetings, let your NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated representative know what you think or ring in to our office, phone 07 574 7139.