As the first guidance for 2024/25 is released, CEO Dan Mathieson encourages growers to harvest their fruit as early as possible and start the season strongly

Zespri has today (22 March) released its first guidance to growers for the 2024/25 season, reporting strengthened per hectare returns off the back of strong demand and improved yields.

Zespri SunGold kiwifruit

Chief executive Dan Mathieson said the industry was focused on starting the season strongly, including incentivising growers to harvest their fruit as early as possible to get sales programmes underway.

“It’s important that with a big crop we start our season strongly and deliver a good amount of early season fruit to our customers so that we can capitalise on early sales opportunities,” he outlined.

“It’s been great to have many of our major retailers visit us in New Zealand in recent months, sharing the strong demand their consumers have for our fruit, and we’re looking forward to meeting that demand with more volume this season.

“That’s started already with our RubyRed Kiwifruit sales programmes underway this week in Japan,” Mathieson noted. ”It’s a great way for us to start given the variety generates real excitement, particularly amongst our younger consumers, and given the fruit is only available for a limited time.

Zespri is expecting strong growth across all kiwifruit varieties this season, he continued, with around 190m trays of kiwifruit to be shipped to markets around the world.

“After a slightly slower than expected start to the season due to fruit maturity, harvest is starting to build with around 15m trays submitted so far, and we’re expecting this to increase rapidly.

“We are also ramping up our marketing activity now so that when our fruit arrives, we’re able to sell it quickly and capitalise on the strong demand,” Mathieson explained.

”This is particularly important given the 2023/24 season’s earlier finish driven by lower volumes and the constrained Northern Hemisphere supply which prevented us from providing continuity to our retail partners.”

This season’s guidance includes a lift in per hectare returns, with the bottom of the per hectare guidance range for all categories other than Sweet Green sitting above the final 2023/24 forecast per hectare returns.

“The last couple of years have been particularly challenging growing seasons and it’s really positive that we’ve had better conditions this year,” said Mathieson. “Yields are up and that’s expected to contribute to per hectare returns lifting considerably from last season which will be positive news for growers.”

Downside risks covered in the guidance included more challenging market conditions and the impact of unfavourable foreign exchange movements with the Japanese Yen.

The latter is expected to particularly impact organic, Sweet Green and RubyRed categories, which have a higher proportion of sales in Japan.