Rodents in kiwifruit shipment delay European campaign for Zespri

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Rodents in kiwifruit shipment delay European campaign for Zespri

The start of Zespri’s European kiwifruit season has been pushed back a week after mice were found among 1.2 million trays of SunGold kiwis upon arrival in Zeebrugge, Belgium last week. 

The company is evaluating how much of the fruit, worth about $12 million, has been affected and will have to be dumped. 

Radio New Zealand reports that Jason Te Brake, COO of Zespri confirmed, "Unfortunately, mice activity has been present within the vessel and it is to a reasonable extent.” 

"Now that we're finding quite a lot of contained product's been contaminated, we are assessing how much of the 4800 fruit pellets have been impacted," Te said. 

He added that the cargo on this vessel represents just 0.5% of the season's crop and a second vessel is expected to arrive in Zeebrugge on Saturday. This is a big blow for the company, which is expecting to have a ‘bumper’ season this year. 

In February, the company said it expects to export around 193 million trays of kiwifruit to global markets. 

“It’s been a far more settled growing environment compared to the last couple of seasons when growers were facing several challenges, including the impact of COVID-19, the significant labor shortage in 2022, and the many climatic events that New Zealand experienced in 2023,” said CEO, Dan Mathieson in February.

“While it’s still early, the crop looks excellent and there’s a lot of excitement and optimism in the industry,” he added. 

Te said the fruit arriving on the second vessel to Europe "will be inspected before being released to customers. We're now working with our customers and our distribution partners to ensure we can commence the European sales season as quickly as possible to meet strong consumer demand."

In 20 years of kiwifruit exports, Zespri says the rodent issue is unprecedented.

"We have had a number of successful arrivals in other markets already this season. We are working with our shipping partner and insurers to understand the cause and to put additional processes in place to avoid this occurring again,” Te said.

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