Zespri leaders' plan to counter unauthorised growing in China of the best-seller Gold3 kiwifruit has failed to win over the number of growers needed to action it.
The proposal for a commercial growing and sales trial with Chinese growers required 75 per cent grower support - it got 70.5 per cent.
A secondary proposal to use the Zespri brand label as part of the sales trial in order to understand consumer response also failed to meet the 75 per cent support threshold, getting 64.1 per cent backing.
The grower-owned company has around 2800 growers in New Zealand.
The trial was Zespri's idea to counter rogue growing in China of the Zespri-owned gold fruit variety, now believed to cover at least 5500 hectares.
China is an important market for Zespri, with 20 per cent of New Zealand kiwifruit sold there. China is also the world's largest kiwifruit producer with a rapidly modernising industry. The G3 or SunGold brand variety is Zespri's biggest global seller.
Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson told the Herald the trial won't go ahead but growers aren't signalling they want to retreat from China.
"They want us to be in China, they want to continue to grow value in that market."
The 70 per cent vote was "actually really good support" but 30 per cent of growers continued to have concerns, Mathieson said.
"The main concerns they have is that they've invested a lot in SunGold and in the last 20 years have been working hard to develop value in the China market and they want to continue to grow and protect that value.
"And I think a major concern was protecting the Zespri brand if we were looked at growing options in China."
Zespri would work with the New Zealand and Chinese industries on an alternative approach.
"The situation in China continues to evolve. China is a rapidly growing market and we are going to continuously have to look at how things unfold there, bringing that information back to growers and discussing the best steps forward, Mathieson said.
"We need to continue to understand their concerns and continue to gather data and information and come back and discuss with growers."
The trial was proposed after extensive due diligence, and a range of expert advice suggested it was the best option to learn more about the unauthorised plantings, including the potential impact on the Zespri brand and sales channels, Mathieson said.
"It would have also helped us begin to understand whether a commercial solution was achievable.
"We will continue to explore our options and engage on the issue and find an alternative way forward."
Mathieson said the company had a range of initiatives under way in China, including R&D partnerships, efforts to understand the local production and supply chain environment and engagement with the Chinese industry and government.
"We will also continue to work with our valued commercial partners and to strengthen our relationships and the Zespri brand."
Ongoing research work in China would provide more information as the company developed the next steps to address the unauthorised growing.
Mount Maunganui-based Zespri in 2020-2021 supplied more than 180m trays of kiwifruit to more than 50 countries. It reported global operating revenue of $3.9 billion.
The main marketer of New Zealand kiwifruit, regulated Zespri also has 1500 orchardists offshore, and employs 700 people globally.