While New Zealand persimmons won’t have a big presence on Chinese retail shelves this season, First Fresh’s managing director Ian Albers sees the potential to develop a foothold in the market in years to come.
“Persimmons are not an unknown fruit in China but New Zealand persimmons are,” Albers told Asiafruit. “We will need to do some consumer education around best practice for storage and consumption but we know there’s a really good market there for high quality imported fruit that we can tap into.”
Gisborne-based First Fresh airfreighted the first consignment of New Zealand persimmons to the People’s Republic earlier this month.
Market access opened up to the New Zealand industry at the tail end of the 2016 season, however, exporters postponed shipments until 2017 as most of their fruit was already committed to sales programmes. Even so, meeting a stringent export protocol – which requires fruit to undergo cold treatment for a period of 35 days – has taken time for First Fresh and its suppliers over the initial campaign.
“Chinese inspectors came out and signed off on our cool treatment procedure in early July and we then moved to apply for an import permit,” Albers explained. “We were granted the import permit on 11 August and then airfreighted the first consignment on 14 August, which was released for sale on 21 August.”
The process has left First Fresh with a small window at the conclusion of the current season, meaning only trial volumes will be sent this year.
“It’s important to get some fruit in front of consumers so we can get an idea of what our sales programme looks like for next year,” Albers added.
First Fresh is working with importer-marketer Foodview – a company that specialises in New Zealand horticultural products in the Chinese market – to develop a presence for New Zealand persimmons.
The first consignment has been distributed to a range of high-end retail chains, including City Shop and City Super, along with online retailers such as Fruitday, which launched sales on its platform on 22 August.
The initial consignment was made up of the Fuyu variety. New Zealand exports around 1,500 tonnes of persimmons per year, at an estimated value of around NZ$8m.