At the start of what is set to be a record-breaking 2016 season, Zespri is positioning itself for the future by announcing the release of a further 400 hectares of its gold kiwifruit variety SunGold this year.
In making the decision to release the additional licence this year, the Zespri Board signalled that - dependant on the product's performance and future global demand - an additional 400 hectares of SunGold licence will also be released each year in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Zespri Chairman Peter McBride said releasing more SunGold hectares was tremendously exciting for the industry and the decision had been made in response to overwhelming global demand for the variety.
"The SunGold variety was at the cornerstone of the industry's recovery from Psa. It is clear now that not only has the variety carried the industry through the Psa crisis, it is the engine that will drive our industry's future growth.
"At today's returns for SunGold, should the full 1,600 hectares be released, it will mean more than $200 million in export revenue to New Zealand. Even before the decision to release more licence was made, SunGold was on track to earn $1 billion in sales revenue by 2017," said Mr McBride.
Mr McBride said in making its decision, the Zespri Board had to balance the fact that SunGold is still a relatively new product with the overwhelmingly positive customer and consumer feedback from the market.
"We have adopted a prudent approach to making a release this year and signalling the further release of hectares based on how SunGold performs this season."
Zespri Chief Executive Lain Jager said the confidence in the variety came from SunGold's excellent performance across Zespri's 56 country markets over the past two years.
"SunGold has generated tremendous excitement across our markets. For example, last year SunGold was voted by fruit consumers in Spain and Germany as the best new fruit product on the market."
Mr Jager said the mechanism and pricing for releasing the additional SunGold hectares was yet to be determined. However, both existing growers and new growers will have the opportunity to participate in the release.
2016 season start
With the first premium Zespri Kiwifruit of the 2016 season being picked and packed, Mr Jager explained that Zespri anticipates similar volumes of Green to last season - around 77 million in 2015 - and another strong increase in the SunGold crop.
"Our industry earned nearly $2 billion in sales revenue last season and this is set to grow again in 2016.
"SunGold volumes have been steadily increasing as most vines were grafted in 2012 and are now reaching full production. SunGold volumes have increased steadily from 11 million trays in 2014 to 27 million last season and we're looking at another strong rise again in 2016. The post-harvest industry has invested many millions in infrastructure to deal with this increase in crop volumes," said Mr Jager.
Zespri has chartered 68 refrigerated reefer vessels this season and another 10,500 containers to ship its fruit to 56 countries around the world this year. The MV Procyon is set to sail next week for Japan, which has long been Zespri's number one market for volume and value, and achieved record sales of 21 million trays last season, up 13 percent on the previous season's volume.
China is set overtake Japan as Zespri's largest country market by volume in 2016. Sales increased 50 percent in China last season to hit 18 million trays and Zespri is forecasting another strong increase in sales this season in this dynamic market.