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Pipfruit and kiwi shipments hitting North America

by By Lora Abcarian | May 12, 2010
The first exports of New Zealand's pipfruit and kiwifruit began arriving in North America in May.

Peter Beaven, chief executive officer of Pipfruit New Zealand, said that pipfruit exports are expected to be down approximately 14 percent compared to 2009. "We expect the total export crop to be around 265,000 tons compared with 307,000 last year," he told The Produce News in late April.

He attributed the decrease to a cold, wet spring and the net removal of approximately 494 acres of planted area. "Total production this year will be around 52 tons per hectare [2.47 acres] compared with last year's record 57 tons. Total land under production for both apples and pears is 8,650 hectares [21,375 acres], of which 98 percent is apples."

According to Mr. Beaven, Royal Gala represents 35 percent of apple production, and Braeburn accounts for 26 percent. "[They] continue to be our most important varieties," he said. "But for the first time in many years, their total planted area is now less than 50 percent." Jazz and Fuji each account for approximately 10 percent of overall production, followed by Pink Lady at 4 percent.

Asked about pear production, Mr. Beaven said, "Pears are also expected to be down [compared to] last year with expected export volume around 4,800 tons, down 11 percent on last year." Approximately 50 percent of the pear volume is historically exported to North America.

Despite a decline in tonnage for both apples and pears in 2010, Mr. Beaven went on to say, "The eating quality of the fruit in 2010 is outstanding. We were very concerned during spring with the lack of sun and warmth, but things became better in the weeks before harvest, and the Brix levels and texture have been superb. Harvest pressure, Brix and dry matter at harvest on all varieties have been the best for five years."

Weather conditions during the growing season are expected to affect packout to some degree. "The challenging growing conditions this season have resulted in slightly lower packout rates for Class 1 export fruit and slightly smaller Royal Gala size than ideal for our target market mix," Mr. Beaven said. "But color generally has been acceptable."

The New Zealand apple industry grows fruit to the highest standards. "The Apple Futures program targeting nil residue production continues to be adopted by our industry and now sits at 64 percent of production with another 11 percent being organic," Mr. Beaven said. "Last year, our 900 residue tests on Apple Futures fruit showed that most was at the limits of detection: five to 15 parts per billion. We are confident that we will be able to continue to offer all of our customers very safe and tasty apples and pears in 2010."

Kiwifruit production has ramped up for major producer Zespri International. The firm's first shipments of kiwifruit arrived in Japan in April, with shipments to North America arriving at the beginning of May.

Zespri Green is a green variety with a white core and black seeds. Zespri Gold has a hairless bronze-colored skin with golden flesh and black seeds. Zespri also markets organic Green and Gold kiwifruit. Regardless of variety, kiwifruit is known as an antioxidant powerhouse.

Oppenheimer is the largest marketer and distributor of Zespri's kiwifruit in North America. John Anderson, Oppenheimer chairman, president and chief executive officer, praised the company and its quality product in a prepared statement. " 'Zespri' is a well-respected brand among retailers, and many stopped stocking Chilean fruit as soon as Zespri kiwifruit was available because of its superior quality," Mr. Anderson said. "The New Zealand kiwifruit industry is in an enviable position. Retailers like Zespri because they know they are getting quality."

Zespri continues to collaborate with the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry on a carbon-footprint study designed to provide an in-depth look at the way kiwifruit production affects the environment. Full product lifecycle carbon footprint analyses -- which start with growing practices and end with product shipment and consumption -- have been conducted for each of Zespri International's products. Resulting carbon emissions have been quantified for orchard operations (21 percent), packhouse and coolstore processes (7 percent), shipping (35 percent), repack and retail operations (11 percent), and consumer consumption and disposal (26 percent).

(For more on New Zealand fruit, see the May 17, 2010, issue of The Produce News.)