The first 4,100 tonnes (1.15m trays) of this season’s Zespri SunGold kiwifruit have left Port of Tauranga, bound for Kobe and Tokyo in Japan, marking the start of Zespri's 2022 shipping programme.
The MV Solent Star is the first of a planned 72 ships set to deliver a crop estimated to be over 190m trays (or 680,000 tonnes) of fruit to Zespri's global markets.
Zespri chief global supply officer Alastair Hulbert said customers and consumers around the world were eagerly awaiting this season's fresh, Vitamin C-rich Zespri Kiwifruit.
“Demand for Zespri kiwifruit is incredibly strong across our global markets and this season we’re expecting another large and great-tasting crop of fruit,” said Hulbert.
“We’re looking at exporting more than 115m trays of SunGold kiwifruit and around 70m trays of Green in 2022, and this season also marks our first commercial volumes of Zespri RubyRed kiwifruit which will be available to consumers in New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and China.”
Hulbert said that while global demand for kiwifruit remains strong, the industry is facing a number of headwinds this season given the ongoing impact Covid-19 is having on labour availability.
“We know this season is going to be particularly challenging given the significant labour shortage we have and the continued disruption Covid-19 is imposing on our global supply chain,” he noted.
“The labour shortage will place significant pressure on the industry and it will challenge our ability to get all of the crop picked. Our focus remains on looking after our people and doing everything we can to safely pick, pack and ship as much fruit as possible.
“This will include working closely with our long-term shipping partners to navigate the congestion we’re seeing amongst global shipping networks.”
Hulbert said that in total, Zespri expects to undertake four charter sailings to North Europe, 12 to the Mediterranean, six to the US West Coast and 50 to Zespri’s Asian markets, and to send around 20,000 containers of kiwifruit this season.
“The continued use of charter vessels will be important in our ability to avoid much of the congestion we’re seeing at container ports, and we’re also looking at new options this season such as partnering with T&G Global to co-ship fruit to North America,” said Hulbert.
“This reflects the growing demand we’re seeing for our fruit in the region, and our first liner will depart in late April.
“While we face challenges this season, our industry remains committed to providing our consumers with another great-tasting crop of fresh, healthy and great-tasting Zespri kiwifruit.”