Zespri is to boost production of its kiwifruit variety with the allocation of 1,800 hectares of European SunGold licence over the next three years.
The initial 1,200 hectares will be in Italy while the remaining 600 hectares are yet to be allocated but are planned for 2019-2020.
The investment will “significantly” expand Zespri’s European supply base to keep pace with increasing year-round demand.
“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 320,000 tonnes over the next five years,” says Zespri Chief Operating Officer Simon Limmer.
Zespri has well-established partnerships with four Italian suppliers; Apofruit, Alegra–Intesa, Salvi Unacoa and Spreafico. These companies were initially contracted with Zespri in 2000 to produce the previous gold variety Hort16A.
SunGold production in Italy is 17,500 tonnes per year from 800 hectares. According to Zespri, there are another 850 licenced hectares in the ground which will come into full production over the next few years.
The combined volume of the existing 1,650 hectares and the new 1,200 hectares will see the Italian volume quadruple to approximately 70,000 tonnes in the next five years and the volume from the additional 600 hectares would be on top of that.
“Growing Zespri Kiwifruit in Italy for the past 17 years has seen us develop strong partnerships with Italian growers and suppliers, making Italy the logical choice to expand our production base,” adds Limmer.
“New Zealand growers are seeing the benefits of a high-performing, high-quality variety, managed through the Zespri supply chain and marketed under Zespri’s premium brand, which celebrates its 20th birthday next month.”
In addition, he adds how fruit from the first 1,200 hectares will generate more than €100 million a year in revenue for the Italian economy once production is in full swing.