Chilean fruit industry reps take aim at Zespri, NZ govt

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Chilean fruit industry reps take aim at Zespri, NZ govt

Update: Zespri chief executive Lain Jager has since responded to Bown's claims, calling on him to provide evidence. 

Jabs at New Zealand's single desk kiwifruit marketer Zespri are not uncommon from Chile's fruit industry leaders, but recent comments made by Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX) president Ronald Bown take the conflict to a new level. 

Speaking with Chilean newspaper El Mercurio, Bown implied the company was participating in anti-competitive behavior in Asia and North America.

In 2011, Zespri was fined for Korean Fair Trade Commission’s (KFTC) for such practices, but Bown told the newspaper the group was allegedly now engaging in unethical practices and restricting the entry of Chilean kiwifruit in Asia’s leading supermarkets.

"This has already been proven, at least in Korea where Zespri was already fined, and it is understood they have had a similar conduct in Japan where judicial action has been taken," he told the publication.

"There are also indications that they are carrying out the same actions in the United States," Bown was quoted as saying.

He said the matter had been raised with Chile's Directorate General of International Economic Relations (DIRECON), and the situation would also be reported to members of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) and remaining participants in the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) negotiations.

"Through it’s monopolistic attitude, endorsed by the Government of New Zealand, Zespri has created a commercial dependency that has produced an increase in New Zealand kiwifruit, affecting its main competitor in the Southern Hemisphere: Chile," Bown was quoted as saying.

"The Government of New Zealand cannot participate in an instance whereby they must comply with regulations that defend free competition, given they support a monopolistic attitude in the case of kiwifruit."

Chilean Kiwifruit Committee president Carlos Cruzat told the publication Zespri should compete "like-for-like" in overseas markets.

"They have a great product and they don’t need to exercise undue pressure," he told El Mercurio.

"The European consumer pays a lot less compared to Asia, where Zespri undertakes anti-competitive practices," he was quoted as saying.

The story also reported both Cruzat and Bown claimed a recent visit from Zespri executives to Chile was aimed at addressing this situation.

At the time of writing, neither Zespri, New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) nor New Zealand's Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) had responded to requests for comment.

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