New Zealand’s High Court has heard the country’s largest kiwifruit grower lost NZ$1.8m in sales following the outbreak of Psa-V.
Seeka chief executive Michael Franks said his company was also forced to make 64 staff redundancies at a cost of NZ$2.1m after the vine killing disease was detected in the Bay of Plenty in 2010, while its share price plummeted from NZ$4 to NZ$0.85, according to Fairfax Media.
“We were fundamentally unsure about the continuing viability of our kiwifruit business. We were conscious of our debt loading and the need to reduce the debt burden,” Franks told Justice Jillian Mallon.
Franks took to the stand as part of class action against New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). In what has become know as the Kiwifruit Claim, over 200 New Zealand kiwifruit growers and post-harvest operators, including Seeka, are seeking losses of NZ$376.4m from the federal government. The plaintiffs claim MPI was negligent in its duty to shield the industry from Psa.
Franks and other witnesses began giving evidence in court this week. Among the list of witnesses was Kiwi Pollen, the company that imported the shipment of anthers and plant material that are the subject of the trial.
“The court heard in evidence today that Kiwi Pollen co-owner Jill Hamlyn was surprised to open the shipment and find black supermarket bags full of anthers, and not finely milled pollen,” Kiwifruit Claim spokesman John Cameron told Scoop Media. “However, despite the shipment containing prohibited plant material, MPI had not given Kiwi Pollen any instructions on how to handle the shipment.”
Cameron went on to explain that when the anthers and plant material arrived at Kiwi Pollen, they were put into a freezer and were later put through a machine to mechanically extract the pollen from the dried anthers.
“There were no standard industry practices at the time regulating the pollen extraction and hygiene processes, which meant that there were multiple opportunities for the cross contamination of pollen harvested from different orchards, or different countries,” Cameron added.
“The anthers from the Shaanxi shipment were processed into pollen using the same equipment that was used to process New Zealand pollen for commercial use.”
MPI has viermently denied the claims, pointing to various studies that are inconclusive as to exactly how the bacterium entered New Zealand.
The case has been schedualed to run for 12 weeks.