Kiwifruit crop makes its way to export

By Laurel Stowell

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SPOT THE DEFECT: Kiwifruit is graded at Cooper Coolpak by Darren Albert.
SPOT THE DEFECT: Kiwifruit is graded at Cooper Coolpak by Darren Albert.

Despite flood and disease, there's a good kiwifruit crop for harvest this year, Whanganui's biggest grower Noel Cooper says.

Cooper Coolpak had 107 workers on the job this week - picking started on Sunday and the first day of packing was Tuesday.

Most of the workers are Maori, and come back each year - "they like the work and they're good," Mr Cooper said.

There should be more than 300,000 trays of fruit from the Cooper family's orchards trucked to the Port of Tauranga for export this year. The crop usually fills 75 to 80 truck and trailer loads. Last year the price was just over $6 a tray, which Mr Cooper said was reasonable.

The Cooper kiwifruit is grown on 47ha in four different places in and around Whanganui, including Papaiti and Okirae on the Mangamahu road. The Okirae orchard was flooded last June, but has a really good crop this year.

"We had to lift a few posts because of the flood. We lost a negligible number of vines."

Whanganui kiwifruit orchards first experienced the bacterial kiwifruit disease Psa in 2013. Mr Cooper said it was quite difficult getting on top of it and the harvest from the Coopers' worst affected Riverbank Rd orchard was 25 per cent down.

Now he's spending an extra $35,000 annually on spraying and the disease is under control.

"So long as you keep your spraying up and do your job, you hardly know you've got it."

One thing that has changed is compliance. Because they are exporting food, their fruit has to be traceable. There are systems in place to determine which part of an orchard each fruit comes from.

"Since Fonterra fell over the compliance has really been landed on the industry. You have to do a lot of work for compliance, and it's very expensive," Mr Cooper said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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