A representative of French produce company Blue Whale said the situation had contributed to higher than normal prices at the start of the season, with the global market expected to be undersupplied for several months.
Much of the European fruit industry was heavily affected by widespread frosts earlier in the year, resulting in a lower green crop from the world’s largest producer country – Italy.
“There is a lot of excitement in the kiwifruit industry for two reasons,” export sales manager Marc Peyres told Fresh Fruit Portal.
“First of all it seems that the South Hemisphere season has finished earlier than usual and so the market will be empty from the beginning of the season – which was not the case the last two years.
“Secondly, the total European crop is down due to frost issues, so definitely the market is much more active. It seems that if we are short of apples in Europe this year, we will be even shorter on kiwifruit.”
The representative said everyone had been talking about high truck gate prices at the start of the season, adding it seemed as though prices would be “exceptional” for much of the campaign.
He said that Blue Whale had received inquiries from people in Italy and Africa for the first time this year.
“Normally they buy kiwifruit cheaper in Greece or Italy, but this year they contacted us. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to supply them at the price they want but what is sure is that everyone is a bit worried about global supply from now until next May,” he said.
Blue Whale’s Hayward crop is expected to drop from the typical level of 6,000 metric tons (MT) to around 5,000MT this year – largely due to low winter temperatures and some isolated hail damaged.
However, Peyres noted growing conditions had been good over the last few weeks so it was possible the fruit could size up for a larger production before the harvest begins in late October. The quality is looking very good, he said.
Around half of Blue Whale’s Hayward kiwifruit crop is typically exported outside of the European Union with key markets of South East Asia including China and Taiwan.
Peyres did not anticipate the stronger European market meant a higher proportion of production would stay within the continent, as he said the price increase would also be seen in export markets.
The company last week began harvesting and packing its second-ever crop of Zespri SunGold kiwifruit, with volumes set to increase over the coming years.
Peyres described the variety as ‘the best kiwifruit in the world’, noting the consistently high quality meant customers were prepared to pay a higher price, as opposed to European Hayward production which he said tended to be more mixed.