Zespri's Italian kiwifruit harvest is in full swing this week with European SunGold volumes set to rise by around one-quarter to five million trays, as more of the recently grafted vines reach full production.
The New Zealand organisation is aiming to double its production of the fruit in the continent over the next five years to catch up with strong year-round demand.
“We now have around 1,100 producing hectares of our proprietary gold variety in Italy and this is set to treble to 2,900 hectares in the next five years – to put this in context, we have 4,600 producing SunGold hectares in NZ now," COO Simon Limmer says.
"Twelve-month supply is a key part of Zespri's strategy and this investment aligns our offshore production with the strong increases in New Zealand SunGold volumes, set to double to around 90 million trays over the next five years."
Chief executive Dan Mathieson says that with over NZ$150 million (£80.5 million) invested in marketing this season, having a consistent year-round supply of fruit is critical to maintaining relationships with customers.
“Kiwifruit is just a tiny but fast-growing part of the global fruit trade," says Mathieson, who recently took over the role from Lain Jager.
"Supplying premium quality fruit all-year round helps us grow kiwifruit consumption around the world and meet the needs of our consumers who want Zespri-quality kiwifruit 12 months of the year."
Zespri has partnered with Italian growers to grow kiwifruit for the past 17 years to supply northern hemisphere markets in the several months a year where New Zealand supply is not available.
The Zespri Board announced earlier this year the allocation 1,800 hectares of SunGold license in Europe, the initial 1,200 hectares of which will be in Italy.
Zespri also procures green kiwifruit from Europe which meets its grade standards.
“Our New Zealand grower-owners realised the importance of supplying their markets 12 months of the year and set up relationships with kiwifruit growers in the Northern Hemisphere to grow Zespri Kiwifruit in Italy, France, Korea and Japan," Limmer says.
Zespri says it invests strongly in supporting its growers around the world with technical advice to maximise their returns and is working closely with its Italian partners to grow supply over the coming years.
It also shares best practice growing techniques, Psa learnings and R&D with grower forums in its offshore production bases. Around 20 Zespri staff are based in Latina, Italy to support this growing part of the business.