It has been a record kiwifruit season, with Zespri recording the largest total return to growers, highest green return per hectare and record sales volumes for both green and SunGold kiwifruit.
Zespri chairman Peter McBride said total sales revenue for the season also grew to hit $1.9 billion, up 21 per cent from the previous season. The total fruit and service payment to growers for New Zealand-grown fruit increased 22 per cent on the previous year to $1.143 billion, with average return per hectare reaching a record $60,758.
"Zespri sold 131.6 million trays in the 2015/16 season, up 21 percent on the previous season. New Zealand-grown kiwifruit sales hit 117 million trays - nearly 22 million trays more than the previous year - and 14.5 million trays of non-New Zealand kiwifruit," Mr McBride said.
Mr McBride said the record per hectare Green return of $56,673 (up from $53,884 last year) was driven by a reduced per-tray return of $5.13 (down from $6.01 last year) but very strong average orchard yields of 11,048 trays a hectare, up from 8,972 trays per hectare last year.
"Across the industry, New Zealand kiwifruit growers have responded year-on-year to the challenge of growing in a Psa environment by improving orchard management practices. Combined with favourable weather conditions last season, the result was a very large crop of Green of 80.7 million trays. This increase in productivity is positive as it allows us to deliver very good value to both our customers and our growers.''
The largest-ever New Zealand volume of 27.5 million SunGold trays (from total New Zealand gold volume of 32.6 million trays) was sold with positive customer and consumer feedback and earned an average return for the gold pool of $8.21 per tray.
"With SunGold orchard yields progressively coming on-stream after the impact of Psa, the average SunGold yields was 8,653 trays per hectare so we are optimistic that we will see stronger per-hectare returns over the next few years.
"The result gives us confidence in market demand for SunGold and supports our decision to release 400 hectares of additional licence this year," Mr McBride said.
Zespri continued to invest in its Northern Hemisphere production to grow SunGold supply to match the growth in NZ volumes. Volumes of 2.3 million trays of SunGold were sold from a total gold ZGS volume of 3.7 million trays were sold in the season, with forecast total gold sales of around 7.5 million trays expected next season.
The Organic Green result was $7.18 per tray on average ($7.37 in 2014/15). The return per hectare was $52,917 - a new record for Organic Green - driven again by higher average yields of 7,373 trays (versus 5,973 trays last year). The Green14 average return was $7.01 per tray and $42,995 per hectare and Zespri continues to work on the positioning of this early season variety.
Zespri's result for corporate net profit after tax was also strong, increasing by $1.2 million to $35.8 million. The Zespri Board announced an intention to declare a final full-year dividend of 24 cents per share. The 2016 final dividend will have no imputation credits attached.
This season's profit and the increase in dividend is partly attributable to the release of a $13 million provision entered for matters relating to Zespri's subsidiary in China, ZMCC, which have now been resolved with the Shanghai Court, as well as receipt of licence fee income during the year. Removing the effect of this exceptional factor, our normalised profit after tax is $27.8 million (compared to normalised profit of $21.5 million last year).
Looking forward growers and shareholders should be aware that the growth of the Zespri Global Supply business combined with potential future licence revenue may materially positively impact company profitability.
Zespri chief executive Lain Jager reflects on a satisfactory result for 2015/16.
''Success is about consistent and disciplined implementation of our strategy through successive seasons. While this is a pleasing result, every single piece of fruit we sell is a moment of truth for our brand promise and we still have work to do to improve the consistency of our offering.
"Looking forward, our challenge is to maintain our relentless focus on quality and service to our customers, build demand ahead of supply through this period of strong supply growth and grow market share while maintaining our premium price positioning," Mr Jager said.