Kiwifruit plan would turn green into gold

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Paul Jones DMS director, are bankrolling orchardists who want to convert from green to gold. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
Paul Jones DMS director, are bankrolling orchardists who want to convert from green to gold. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

Gold G3 kiwifruit could be bankrolled into Bay of Plenty orchards if growers take up a proposal to convert their green crops.

Western Bay of Plenty management and post-harvest operator DMS has put a stake in the ground and will put up its own money, by a lease arrangement, to help finance the process.

Director Paul Jones said with all the negativity surrounding the industry it was time to make a stand.

Kiwifruit export earnings were in excess of $1 billion, it was the Bay of Plenty's biggest employer and made up 30 per cent of its GDP, he said.

"It's absolutely critical as an industry. It's too big to fail and we don't think it's going to fail and we are pretty gung ho about that," Mr Jones said.

Kiwifruit would continue to be profitable in green and gold varieties but G3 was the future replacement for gold 16A despite growers who had concerns about its susceptibility to Psa.

"It is not resistant to Psa. It was never bred for that, however, we believe it is sufficiently tolerant to be commercially viable and highly profitable," Mr Jones said.

"Gold is worth six times more than green so we are not talking about a small difference, there is a lot of room for capital gain."

Reluctant to discuss figures or number of conversion opportunities, Mr Jones said its financial contribution would be significant and uptakes would be dependent on interest.

"Conversion costs over two years are $50,000 to $60,000 per hectare so it's a substantial commitment for us. Obviously we also won't know the number of conversions until we gauge grower interest however it won't be limitless," Mr Jones said.

Seeka chief executive Michael Franks said there was no burning pressure to cut over to a new variety and the organisation was looking forward to a continuing viable green industry after growers received good returns last season.

The industry had previously offered financing packages and he was warning anyone thinking about the deal to read the fine print.

"My advice to any grower is to get independent, financial and legal advice because quite often there will be fish hooks," Mr Franks said.

NZ Kiwifruit Growers chief executive Mike Chapman said he imagined growers would be cautious as they all have their own opinions on G3.

"DMS has obviously reached their own view and is prepared to put a product behind it, which I think is fantastic," Mr Chapman said.

"They have put their money where their mouth is and opened up more options than currently exist for people who may have difficulty in funding or the confidence to make the move."

The DMS grower information evening will be held at ASB Arena in Tauranga on April 10.

Orchard conversions would begin in winter with the first harvest in 2015.

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