Zespri has appointed WLH Trading Co and United Produce as its new Taiwanese importers. The move comes after the single-desk kiwifruit marketed terminated its business relationship with all three of its previous Taiwanese distribution partners in February, following claims they had created fraudulent invoices.
Speaking exclusively with Asiafruit, Zespri’s president of global sales and marketing, Daniel Mathieson, said the dismissal triggered an extensive replacement search on the eve of the season.
“We had 15 applications, and while we undertook our normal process, exercising due diligence, we had to do it at good speed to have everything in place for the start of the season,” Mathieson explained. “Both companies have a good reputation with their key customers and have an innovative approach to market expansion, along with strong links to the retail and wholesale sectors. We are very excited to be working with them.”
WHL and United Produce are both based in Taipei and run successful apple import programmes out of the US. Mathieson said both companies’ performance would be reviewed at the conclusion of the current season, with any approach for a contract extension to be made then.
Zespri is understood to be considering setting up its own import operation in Taiwan, similar to those it currently runs in Europe and Japan. This kind of arrangement would enable Zespri to import the fruit itself and then distribute it to wholesalers to ensure the best market coverage.
Taiwan is Zespri’s seventh largest market globally, with shipments totalling 6.2m trays, at a value of US$88.5m, during 2012/13. Mathieson says exports will again come around the 6m-tray mark this year, with a slight increase in gold volumes, as more production of new gold varieties comes online.
“While Taiwan has a relatively small population, they eat a lot of kiwifruit,” Mathieson said. “Per capita it is one of our biggest markets so we want to make sure our distribution operation reflects the potential we see in the market.”