2016/17 has been a record-breaking year for kiwifruit exports - but Zespri believes there is more room for growth.

"While kiwifruit is a big deal here in New Zealand, it's a smaller category offshore. So our focus is on bringing more consumers into kiwifruit, so we can grow our share of the fruit bowl, and where we sell it around the world."

Last year, there was a 20% rise in kiwifruit exports, and that's been good for the Bay of Plenty economy.

"Kiwifruit here is a significant contributor. It's not only the growing, but also the infrastructure surrounding it. You've got post-harvest operators, who have a significant investment in the community in terms of sites and the large employment they have for locals throughout the year.

"Places like Te Puke - kiwifruit will bring about $500 million dollars back into the community, so for small regional communities, it's certainly a strong economic contributor."

Local grower Andre Hickson, who has been harvesting kiwifruit for 30 years, says there is a feeling of optimism amongst growers in the Bay.

However, Mr Hickson says the kiwi vine-killer PSA is still a very real threat.

"We noticed during PSA - which hasn't gone away - that schools, towns, infrastructure, were all hit. The school role dropped. So you see it reflected in the community, everyone at the moment is on a roll, but trying to manage growth will be the challenge."

Mr Hickson says Zespri is a great support for growers in the industry - but says the level of growth they want to achieve in the next decade could prove a challenge.

"The logistics of handling a large volume of fruit, in such a short space of time, from orchard to market will always be a challenge, and will continue to do so with growth. Everyone must communicate how to do it better, I suppose."

Mr Hickson says working with kiwifruit is like working with Mother Nature - you never know what to expect - but he still loves what he does.

"We do a really good job in the market. Zespri gives growers good signals, we grow good produce, and when you go into the markets and see a Zespri label on fruit, you feel quite proud of what the system has been able to give to the consumer."

The end of the harvest for the Bay of Plenty is marked for this week.

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