Jamie Gray is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

Zespri's bumper year, biggest return for growers

Zespri sold 131.6 million trays in the 2015/16 season, up 21 percent on the previous season.
Zespri sold 131.6 million trays in the 2015/16 season, up 21 percent on the previous season.

Kiwifruit marketer Zespri has reported a bumper year for 2015/6, with the biggest-ever total return to growers, highest-ever return per hectare for "green" and record sales volumes for both green and gold varieties.

Total sales revenue for the season hit $1.9 billion, up 21 percent from the previous season.

The total fruit and service payment to growers for New Zealand-grown fruit increased 22 percent 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. Zespri grows some fruit offshore to ensure continuity of supply in the offseason.

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/ha last year.

The industry was hit hard by the outbreak of the virus Psa in 2010 but it has bounced back sharply, due in no small part to advent of the Psa-tolerant gold cultivar, Gold3, which is marketed by Zespri as Sungold.

"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," Zespri Peter McBride said in a statement.

Combined with favourable weather conditions last season, the result was a very large crop of green - 80.7 million trays.

SunGold's performance in the markets was positive. The largest-ever New Zealand volume of 27.5 million trays gave 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 yield was 8,653 trays per hectare "so we are optimistic that we will see stronger per-hectare returns over the next few years," McBride said.

Zespri continues to invest in its Northern Hemisphere production to grow SunGold supply to match the growth in NZ volumes.

At a corporate level, Zespri's net profit increased by $1.2 million to $35.8 million. The Zespri board plans to pay a final full-year dividend of 24 cents per share but the dividend will not carry imputation credits.

The season's profit and the increase in dividend was 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, Zespri's normalised profit after tax was $27.8 million compared with a normalised profit of $21.5 million last year. Zespri is owned by past and present growers.

- NZ Herald

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