Zespri expecting good quality for 2023 kiwifruit crop but volumes are well down on last year

Challenging weather events throughout the 2023 growing season have contributed to a lower-than-expected New Zealand kiwifruit crop this season, Zespri has confirmed.

Zespri SunGold

The marketer said it now expects to export around 136m trays of Green, SunGold and RubyRed kiwifruit to more than 50 countries.

This is down from the 171m trays supplied in 2022, with this season’s crop potentially reducing even further as orchard assessments are completed following April’s hail event in Te Puke.

CEO Dan Mathieson said it had been an extremely challenging growing season in New Zealand, with growers affected by multiple severe weather events.

“Like many others in the primary industries around the world, kiwifruit growers have faced a particularly tough time this growing season, including many weather-related challenges,” he commented.

“As a result, we have a limited supply of kiwifruit for our customers this season, particularly Green kiwifruit where we’re expecting one of the lowest volumes in the past 20 years, with around 42m trays available which is down from around 61m trays in 2022.

“Despite the challenges, our Zespri teams around the world are working hard with our global customers to get the best possible outcome this season.”

Mathieson noted that while the lower volumes are disappointing, it provides an opportunity for the industry to focus on lifting fruit quality this season and prepare for increased volumes in 2024.

“There’s been a huge effort across the industry and our supply chain to do everything possible to lift quality this season, including making sure we had a really good quality harvest, and that’s been supported by the initiatives that have been established as part of the industry’s Quality Action Plan,” he said.

Mathieson noted that early shipments were showing much better quality outturns and were receiving consistent feedback across key markets.

“We’ve already seen that in our Asian markets and now again over the weekend in Europe where our first shipment of fruit has been distributed to meet the strong demand we’re seeing from local consumers,” he commented.

With more than half this season’s fruit harvested, planning for next season was already underway to manage a much larger forecast crop in 2024.

“From a supply perspective, we’re expecting significantly more volume in 2024 as growers rebound from this season’s weather-related reduced yields and more of our licenced SunGold Kiwifruit hectares come into maturity,” Mathieson said.

“This growth is expected to continue in the years ahead, with our New Zealand supply alone forecast to reach almost 230m trays in 2027/28. Our Northern Hemisphere supply locations are also forecast to more than double from this year’s 25m trays by 2027/28.

“As these increased volumes come into maturity, they will provide terrific opportunities for us to move back into a period of sustainable growth with our customers and sustainable value for our growers.

“As well as investing heavily in our brand and developing new markets, our industry is working hard to build greater resilience into our supply chain so that we can overcome the adverse weather events we’ve faced, deliver larger volumes of consistently high-quality kiwifruit to our customers and consumers in the years ahead and return more value to our growers and communities.”