Key Points:

Heavy fruit losses have hit kiwifruit post-harvest operator EastPack although it said it was able to increase its payouts to growers.

Profit before dividend and rebates was $4.2 million, a drop of 51 per cent on the previous year's $8.6m.

A rise in volumes, however, had boosted total income by 10 per cent to $41 million.

Fruit losses of 8 per cent for green kiwifruit compared with the industry average of 11.6 per cent, and 18 per cent for the gold variety was "unacceptably high" compared to the industry average of 10.6 per cent.

The company said, however, its orchard gate return was still slightly ahead of the industry average because of a competitive cost structure.

Green kiwifruit had paid growers $4.64 per tray, 21 per cent ahead of the industry average, and gold had been 1 per cent ahead at $4.86 per tray.

EastPack carried an additional $4.7 million in costs associated with the repacking and coolstorage of fruit loss product.

The company will pay a 20c per tray rebate, down 10 cents, and a 6c per share dividend, down 10cps.

Eastpack chief executive Tony Hawken said the company planned to invest $10 million in infrastructure in 2007.

"Timing is critical at every stage of the picking, packing and storage process and we are determined to have in place the capacity, technology and capabilities to provide these services efficiently during the optimum harvest window."

EastPack has invested $50 million in state of the art grading, packing and coolstorage since 2000 to keep pace with growth, Mr Hawken said.

- NZPA