NZ: Zespri to take action against 'illegal' kiwifruit plantings

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NZ: Zespri to take action against 'illegal' kiwifruit plantings

New Zealand kiwifruit marketer Zespri says action will be taken with growers who have illegally grafted the G3 gold kiwifruit variety, which has still not been officially released.

A Zespri spokesperson said the company wanted a fair allocation mechanism for growers if it decided to release the variety, but around 13ha of illegal graftings have so far been detected.

"Provided G3 is still looking good in early February, the Zespri Executive will develop a paper on G3 demand volumes and proposed licensing arrangements to go to the Zespri Board at its February meeting. Following that there will then be an industry-wide discussion on how any release of G3 is done," the spokesperson said.

"From a Zespri perspective, the starting point is to identify the future demand for Gold, then establish the number of hectares of G3 we need planted, and then work through the fairest allocation mechanism for all growers.

"In the meantime, we have become aware of some illegal plantings of G3 - that is growers who have grafted to G3 without a licence.  The rules apply to all growers and Zespri has not given anyone any permission to graft across to G3 without having a licence."

Zespri sent a letter to growers before Christmas outlining the action that would be taken against growers who illegally grafted.

"Zespri has a standard process for overplanting (or planting without a licence) which requires the orchardist to remedy this breach of Zespri's intellectual property rights by obtaining a licence or removing and destroying the plant material within a particular timeframe," the letter said.

"Growers who are grafting illegally are doing so without approval by Zespri and entirely at their own risk. These growers are 'going early' without knowing either that G3 'will work' or that they will be able to obtain a licence through whatever licence mechanism Zespri eventually confirms.

"While Zespri is being pragmatic taking the current extraordinary situation with Psa into account, it will eventually have no other recourse, in fairness to all other growers, but to strongly defend its IP rights."

While the offense is a serious issue, the spokesperson points out that the industry has more than 13,000ha of production, which means the currently known illegal graftings account for 0.1% of the total area.

Related stories: NZ kiwifruit growers could cut back gold varieties in Te Puke

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