After a 12 year negotiation, New Zealand is shipping its first export of persimmons to mainland China in what exporters say will be a multi-million dollar opportunity for the industry.
Negotiations between the Ministry for Primary Industries and China's quarantine authority AQSIQ concluded successfully this week.
Gisborne-based exporter First Fresh will send its first shipment next month, following approval from AQSIQ.
First Fresh managing director Ian Albers said the strategy would be to start small and gain a clear understanding of its Chinese consumers before taking the next step.
"At this stage we're just dipping our toe in the water to see what the interest is like.
It's difficult to say how much it's worth until we get a year or so under our belt.. But it is definitely a multi-million dollar opportunity," Albers said.
"China could fuel decades of growth for the New Zealand persimmon industry, but only if we get it our approach right," he said.
"That's why we're only exporting a small test shipment into Shanghai in the first year."
New Zealand's total persimmon exports are currently around $8 million, mainly to Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
Negotiations for access to the Chinese market began in 2005 and persimmon will be the first new fruit to gain access to the Chinese market since the free trade agreement was signed in 2008.
The fruit would be marketed in China by Foodview, a New Zealand specialist marketing company.
The first shipment would be sold through 250 retail stores, with feedback collected from customers.
"We want to make sure we understand the market and consumer preferences to ensure the market is ready for us before we arrive in force," he said.
New Zealand's 50 persimmon growers have 154ha under cultivation, 70 per cent of which is in the Gisborne area.