New Zealand group Matipou Orchard is awaiting sentencing after admitting to illegally exporting apples to Taiwan, according to Hawkes Bay Today.
The Hastings District Court heard the company misused documents to ship non-compliant apples to the Asian nation between 2009 and 2011, with the intent of financial gain.
Matipou pleaded guilty to 10 charges on Tuesday (15 July) and will be sentenced next month. New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) withdrew charges against the orchard’s general manager William Thow, who faced a maximum penalty of seven years' jail if found guilty.
Charges against Thow and the company were laid in March 2013, following an extensive investigation into Matipou’s operations.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (now MPI) had previously revoked the group’s approval to inspect and clear apples for export from their Twyford packhouse.
Under New Zealand law, it is the responsibility of growers and packers to ensure apples meet Taiwan’s stringent suitability standards, which includes the requirement for fruit to meet specific plant pest spray regimes.
Pipfruit New Zealand CEO Alan Pollard would not comment directly on the case, but indicated to Hawkes Bay Today that there was no evidence other orchards had been involved in similar practices.