Dan Mathieson says the group is reaping the rewards of efforts to lift quality and reduce costs, as well as strong consumer demand

Zespri has released its final forecast for the 2023/24 season, with record per-tray returns forecast for green, organic green, SunGold and RubyRed kiwifruit.

Zespri gold kiwifruit New Zealand

The February forecast has green at a record NZ$9.44 per tray, ”significantly up” from last season’s final orchard gate return (OGR) of NZ$5.78 per tray.

Forecast SunGold kiwifruit returns are also at a record level of NZ$12.62 per tray, well above last season’s final OGR of NZ$9.97, while organic SunGold Kiwifruit is at NZ$14.21, the group outlined.

For Zespri RubyRed kiwifruit, the forecast average per tray return is at a record NZ$26.54, up from last season’s final OGR of NZ$22.27.

CEO Dan Mathieson said the ”significant effort” undertaken by the industry to lift fruit quality and reduce quality costs had been a key factor in the improved returns, along with strong consumer demand.

“The lift we’ve seen in all of our per-tray returns is a real credit to the hard work that’s taken place across the industry and throughout our global supply chain to improve quality,” he explained.

“It’s really helped our markets to maintain strong run rates and maximise value while closing out the season, with all categories other than organic SunGold kiwifruit expected to deliver record per-tray returns.

“While we’re always looking to increase the value we’re returning across all of our varieties, it’s particularly pleasing to see a real lift in our green returns,” Mathieson continued.

”That’s been driven by the increased value our teams have secured from lower volumes, especially in Europe, as well as strong market performance in Japan and North America.

“We’ve also seen strong demand for SunGold kiwifruit and RubyRed kiwifruit has continued to perform strongly, which we expect to see continue as RubyRed becomes the first of this year’s crop to hit stores soon,” he noted.

With a crop of around 193m trays expected to be shipped in 2024/25, Mathieson said the forecast was an indicator of the sort of value that could be achieved by providing consistently high quality fruit.

“We know that when we get good fruit to market it sells and sells well, so continuing to focus on providing our customers and consumers with great kiwifruit throughout the season will again be our focus,” he said.

“As well as the focus on per tray returns, we’re also looking forward to seeing improved per hectare returns for growers in the coming season, with our February crop estimate showing a strong improvement in expected yields,” Mathieson added.

At a per hectare level, forecast OGRs for all categories have increased against the previous forecast, Zespri said.

Green and SunGold forecast OGRs were now above final 2022 season returns, despite the season’s lower yields, the group revealed.