A proof-of-concept trial is also nearing completion in China, while production trials have begun in Oregon and California.
The company not only expects a lift to 19 million trays for the current campaign, but a greater proportion of the crop will be of the premium SunGold-branded variety with volumes set to be up by two-thirds at 10.5 million trays.
In contrast, the volume of green Hayward kiwifruit is likely to be down by around one million trays, at a total of eight million.
“This year’s Northern Hemisphere harvest is expected to exceed 19.1 million trays, which is almost 25 percent up on the 15.4 million trays recorded in 2017/18,” says Zespri chief international production officer Sheila McCann-Morrison.
“Zespri is looking forward to completing the New Zealand season by the end of the year while transitioning to supply from our Northern Hemisphere locations.”
McCann-Morrison said growth in Zespri’s offshore supply allowed it to meet increasing consumer demand while ensuring the brand remains top of mind during the three or four months of the year when New Zealand-grown kiwifruit is unavailable.
“Ultimately, this is trying to meet the needs of our consumers and support sustainable long-term returns for our non-New Zealand and New Zealand-grown crop,” she says.
Zespri has developed long-term partnerships with growers and suppliers outside New Zealand to provide Zespri kiwifruit that meets stringent quality standards in Italy, South Korea, Japan and France.
Europe remains Zespri’s most significant source of non-New Zealand-grown kiwifruit, with Italy supplying more than 90% of our total volumes and more than nine million trays of SunGold.
“In addition to expanding our production in current key European locations, particularly in Italy, we are running trials in new growing locations to determine whether we can successfully diversify our supply,” says McCann-Morrison.
“We believe this will allow us to mitigate risks like pests and adverse weather events and also bring our supply closer to market.”
Outside of Europe, Zespri expects to see continued growth in Asia and is focusing on increasing the supply of SunGold in Japan and South Korea to meet strong demand.
Zespri also continues to explore the potential for a 12-month supply programme in China. A proof of concept trial in China is nearing completion, working with local partners to assess local Chinese varieties to determine whether we can sustainably grow Zespri-quality fruit.
The group has also started production trials in Oregon and California in the U.S., which has become one of Zespri’s most significant new growth markets due to demand for SunGold.