Kiwifruit sales for 2018 look likely to near the $3 billion mark, as export marketer Zespri closes in on its 2025 global sales target of $4.5 billion.

Final sales totals won't be firmed up until March but chief executive Dan Mathieson said the forecast is shaping to be $2.8b to $2.9b.

While the 2025 goal looks well within reach, Mathieson cautioned there were challenges ahead "in terms of making sure we continue to have good, sustainable growth as gold (fruit) volumes start to come on more and more".

"But seeing the strong demand gives us confidence."


Sales for the previous, 2017, season were $2.5b.

Indicative estimates based on trays sold suggest 2018 season sales to Japan, Zespri's biggest market, jumped 20 per cent on the previous year, while Korea sales were up 32 per cent, Southeast Asia 11 per cent and China 15 per cent.

Sales in Zespri's fledgling North American market are estimated to be up 56 per cent on 2017.

The total fruit and service payment to Zespri growers, across all grower pools and excluding loyalty premiums, is forecast to be $1769.5 million, compared with $1753.2m forecast in December.

For the 2019 season, Mathieson expects to see a 10 million tray increase in exports of Sungold, the gold fruit brand variety that has been the salvation of an industry devastated by the 2010 outbreak of the vine disease Psa. It forced growers to destroy the vines of a previous Zespri gold fruit staple that proved particularly vulnerable, and cost the industry nearly $890m.

Mathieson expected gold fruit exports to lift to about 75 million trays, the result, he said, of a good pollination period in December and January.

The green fruit crop, which is pollinated a little later, didn't enjoy quite the same success, so tray numbers could be down by 3-4 million trays to the 75 million mark, he said.

Selling the bumper gold fruit crop would be no problem, said Mathieson, recently returned from the global trade show Fruit Logistica in Berlin.


"The hot topic was how much more Sungold can we get going into 2019? Demand is strong across the Northern Hemisphere and Asia. They want it for as much of the year as they can get it."

Sungold is also grown for Zespri offshore - in Italy, France and Korea, with small growing trials under way in California and China.

Mathieson said the quality of this season's Italian gold crop was the best ever.

After ramping up its profile and presence in North America where it now has 15 representatives, Zespri is likely to turn its marketing attention to Vietnam, he said.

"We see strong growth in Vietnam if we put more effort into there. We put one million trays into there out of 150 million we exported last year which is pretty small, but we can easily see that growing by three to five times if we put some more structure investment into Vietnam, as we have in North America."

Every year Zespri assessed what new markets it could afford to resource, Mathieson said.

The world offered almost unlimited potential markets for Zespri but "you can't be everywhere and we have a limited amount of fruit and a limited amount of resources".

"North America has been a focus in the last three years and now we're looking to launch another (market) next year or the following year."