In the lead up to the Chinese growing season in October, Zespri is preparing for trial partnerships with unauthorised kiwifruit growers in China. The trial will last up to three years (subject to annual approval) and is one of the approaches Zespri is using to combat illegally grown Zespri G3 kiwifruit, SunGold, in China.
It is estimated that Chinese demand for Zespri fruit grown during the northern hemisphere season could reach 50,000 tonnes in five years.
“We've always said that we think that the solution is going to be a combination of legal options, political dialogue and now, potentially commercial means, subject to the right conditions,” explained Zespri International China strategic project lead Matt Crawford.
“We’ve been really well supported by the New Zealand and Chinese governments, which is encouraging as we continue to navigate through this complex issue.”
Zespri has estimated that 4000ha of unauthorised G3 is growing in China, double the amount estimated in 2019.
“From this, 4000ha is our best estimate of the amount of G3 that’s in the ground in China. That’s not a perfect number but is the best estimate we can get from around the vicinity of key growing regions,” said Crawford, adding that with the next Chinese grafting season starting this month and continuing into February, Zespri is expecting more illegal G3 to be in the ground before partnership trials begin in October.
“That's why we’re ensuring that we’re as prominent as possible in China by publicly talking about our intentions and lifting the profile of plant variety rights and their importance.”
Despite the move to work with counterfeit growers, Zespri still plans on taking legal action.
“We’re certainly being as active as we can in the counterfeit space. For example, we’re in the process of taking legal action against a nursery that has been involved in propagating our plant material,” noted Crawford.
“We can assure (New Zealand) growers that at this early stage, we’re prepared to look at all available options to ensure the best approach is used to slow the spread of illegal growing, and to mitigate the risks in China.”