No fruit from company’s first new-season consignment of SunGold will be released until further inspections have been carried out and any affected product is destroyed

Zeebrugge Zespri Crown Garnet kiwifruit

The first consignment of Zespri SunGold arrived last week from NZ on the Crown Garnet vessel

Kiwifruit marketer Zespri says it has delayed the start of its New Zealand export sales in Europe by a week following the discovery of pests in the fruit holds of its first new-season charter vessel into Zeebrugge.

During what the company referred to as its standard clearance processes, it said “evidence of mouse activity” had been identified in some parts of the ship.

Zespri chief operating officer Jason Te Brake said Zespri took fruit quality “incredibly seriously” and had made the decision to quarantine the fruit while inspections continued.

The aim was, he said, to ensure all affected fruit is identified and destroyed. It is understood no fruit will be released unless both Zespri and relevant regulators are confident of mitigation measures.

”We have a proven track record over 20 years of providing only the highest quality fruit and building a brand people trust and we won’t compromise on that,” said Te Brake. “This is the first time in more than 20 years that we have encountered this issue, and we have had a number of successful arrivals in other markets already this season.”

He revealed: ”We are working with our shipping partner and insurers to understand the cause and to put additional processes in place to avoid this occurring again.”

Te Brake said that, after a strong start in Asia, Zespri’s season start in Europe will now be pushed back a week.

A second charter vessel is due to arrive in Zeebrugge on Saturday. The fruit on board that ship will undergo an inspection process before being released to customers.

“We’re now working with our customers and our distribution partners to ensure we can commence the European sales season as quickly as possible to meet strong consumer demand,” Te Brake added.