One hundred tonnes of locally-grown kiwifruit is being distributed by the industry to food rescue organisations around the country this season.

Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson said despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, the completion of this season's harvest reflected a huge effort across the industry to pick and pack the 2020 season crop in record time.

He said the industry appreciated the support it had received in order to continue to operate.

"This season really has demonstrated the sense of collaboration within the kiwifruit industry and the strong support we've received.

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"Our supply chain has worked together to safely pick, pack and ship this season's bumper crop and provide jobs to locals who had lost their roles in the hospitality and tourism sectors as a result of the impact of Covid-19."

Mathieson said considering the uncertainty presented by the pandemic, the fact all of this season's crop had already been picked and packed and 32 of their planned 48 charter vessels had already shipped fruit to market put them in the best possible position to tackle the challenges they were facing.

"It is something we can all be proud of," he said.

With the impact of Covid-19 putting greater strain on many community organisations, Zespri has increased the support it offers its existing community partners and started working with several new organisations across the country.

"We can see significant growth opportunities ahead and we can do more to create a sustainable future by helping people, communities and the environment thrive through the goodness of kiwifruit," Mathieson said.

"At Zespri, we're already doing that through our partnerships with the likes of Surf Life Saving New Zealand, the Ōtanewainuku Kiwi Trust, Good Neighbour, Youth Search and Rescue, and the scholarships and education programmes we offer but we know that as our industry grows, so too must the contribution we make.

Dan Mathieson, chief executive of kiwifruit marketing company Zespri. Photo / File
Dan Mathieson, chief executive of kiwifruit marketing company Zespri. Photo / File

"This season, in recognition of the impact of Covid-19, we're pleased to expand our support to partner with KidsCan, where we've provided financial support and donated one tonne of kiwifruit."

KidsCan Chief Executive Julie Chapman said the partnership had come at a crucial time for KidsCan.

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"We're delighted to have had Zespri formalise their support at a time when we're facing unprecedented demand for KidsCan's services due to Covid-19.

"We're now feeding 44,000 children a day, which is up 30 per cent on last term, as families struggle to make ends meet. We're sending out thousands of warm raincoats and solid pairs of shoes to keep children warm and dry in what will be the toughest winter yet for many.

"Zespri's donation of nutritious kiwifruit has been warmly welcomed by our partner schools and their communities who found lockdown particularly tough," Chapman said.

Mathieson said in addition to its work with KidsCan, Zespri had formed strong relationships with a number of regional organisations.

"In the Bay of Plenty, we're proud to now be supporting a number of additional local organisations such as EmpowermentNZ, Love Soup Waikato and BOP and The Search Party Charitable Trust, on top of the support we continue to provide Good Neighbour.

"These organisations do amazing things including promoting sustainable food use and making sure that those most in need are supported and have access to support and quality fresh and healthy food.

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"Locally, the industry is donating 13 tonnes of quality Green and SunGold Kiwifruit, and 100 tonnes nationally which is something we can all take great pride in."

Zespri has also supported a range of offshore organisations and causes and donated kiwifruit so that hospital workers, senior citizens, young children and those in need around the world can access kiwifruit and its Vitamin C.

Mathieson said he was also looking forward to the commencement of the Zespri Young and Healthy Virtual Adventure, the organisation's first nationwide community investment programme.

It encourages healthy lifestyles amongst young children and was being undertaken in partnership with Asics ambassadors Amerliaranne Ekenasio, Ardie Savea, Kane Williamson, and Samantha Charlton.