Kiwifruit marketer Zespri says $4.5 billion of global sales by 2025 remains its goal but it acknowledges considerable uncertainty about Covid-19's impact on the global fresh fruit economy.
The first of this season's kiwifruit harvest was only now starting to arrive in markets so the company, which has the statutory right to export the bulk of New Zealand's kiwifruit, said it was not yet able to offer a view on this year's sales.
Before the virus pandemic, Zespri's chief Dan Mathieson said sales revenue this financial year - excluding income from selling growing licences - was forecast to pass $3b.
At the time the big goal of $4.5b was considered achievable before 2025 "if all goes to plan", he said.
The New Zealand kiwifruit industry has been deemed an essential service during the lockdown.
In a recent letter to Zespri growers, company chairman Bruce Cameron said there remained much uncertainty about the full impact of the virus, including the effect it would have on the global fresh fruit industry.
"While there is strong demand for fresh healthy fruit like kiwifruit, we are yet to see the full impact on the availability of local labour to pick and pack our fruit, on our distribution networks to get fruit to our customers and on the ability of our offshore consumers to be able to physically access our fruit."
The Zespri board had reviewed all debtor arrangements and seasonal banking facilities to ensure the company had extra cover to manage various scenarios, Cameron said.
Meanwhile, Dave Courtney, Zespri's chief grower and alliances officer said export operations were progressing well.
"Our first shipment of the season arrived in Tokyo this week with one million trays of SunGold on board, with the unloading process running smoothly.
"We're also encouraged by the demand for our fruit in Japan and the strong signals we're seeing in all of our major markets. Our first charter shipment arrives in China today and another is on its way to Europe and all other markets have container shipments in transit.
"At the end of last week we had shipped 9.8 million trays year to date, compared to 5.3 million trays at the same point last year so we're tracking very well. We still have no market issues at this stage and ports are operational.
"There is some risk around the reduced capacity of in-market trucking and we will continue to monitor this. We're encouraged by the efforts governments around the world have made to keep international trade opportunities open," Courtney said.
New Zealand-grown kiwifruit were exported to 53 countries in 2018, with $1.19b (2017: $1.09b) to Asian countries including Japan $397m (2017: $381m) and China $458m ($365m). Kiwifruit to the value of $512m ($422m) went to countries in Continental Europe.
Strong growth in both volume and value saw Zespri's returns grow in 2018-2019 with total operating revenue from global kiwifruit sales and licence release exceeding $3b for the first time.
Total sales volumes reached 167.2 million trays in the 2018 season, 21 per cent up on the 138.6m trays sold in the previous season.
Global revenue generated by fruit sales and the SunGold licence release increased to $3.1b, while Zespri's total fruit and service payments, including a loyalty premium, to
New Zealand growers was up 24 per cent to $1.8b.
Growers saw average orchard gate returns increase in 2018-2019, including a 6 per cent increase in the average per-hectare return for green fruit to $63,622, and a 28 per cent
increase in the average per-hectare return for SunGold to $145,991.
SunGold returned record levels on a per-tray basis but green returns were down due to higher than expected volumes and an associated extended sales window and greater
Zespri's net profit after tax in 2018-2019 was $179.8m, up from $101.8 million the previous season.
The company said this reflected the strong season results which were further boosted by revenue from the ongoing SunGold licence release process and increased earnings from new cultivar royalties.