Kiwifruit industry in New Zealand

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A kiwifruit orchard in the North Island of New Zealand.

Often misnamed "kiwi", the kiwifruit is a major horticultural export earner in New Zealand. New Zealand developed the first commercially viable kiwifruit and developed the export markets, creating the demand for the fruit that exists today. Today New Zealand is the third largest kiwifruit producing country, next to China and Italy,[1] and holds approximately 30% of the market share. In the 2008-2009 season the value of New Zealand kiwifruit exports was NZ$1.45 billion.[2]

Origin of the fruit[edit]

Cultivation of the fuzzy kiwifruit spread from China in the early 20th century, when seeds were introduced to New Zealand by Mary Isabel Fraser, the principal of Wanganui Girls' College who had been visiting mission schools in Yichang, China.[3] The seeds were planted in 1906 by a Wanganui nurseryman, Alexander Allison, with the vines first fruiting in 1910. A New Zealand horticulturalist developed the well-known green kiwifruit in Avondale, New Zealand, around 1924. This well known green kiwifruit were later renamed “Hayward” as a tribute to its creator, Hayward Wright.[4]

Origins of the industry[edit]

The first commercial planting of Chinese gooseberries occurred in 1937 by the orchardist Jim MacLoughlin. He found that the vines were low maintenance and fruited well. By 1940, MacLoughlin purchased more property for Chinese gooseberry production. MacLoughlin’s truck was commandeered for army use during the outbreak of war and as a result, he was forced to sell his property and enter into a shared cropping arrangement with another farmer. In 1955, MacLoughlin bought out his partner, purchasing his land back along with an additional 38 acres and planting it all to Chinese gooseberries. During the war around 550 cases of the fruit were marketed each season with the fruit proving popular with American servicemen in New Zealand. This provided the opportunity for the previously domestically-consumed fruit industry to expand by exporting to an international market.

Initial growth of the export market[edit]

In 1952, MacLoughlin approached the New Zealand Fruit Federation who agreed to facilitate the shipping and marketing of the fruit to United States markets, this was New Zealand’s first export of Chinese gooseberries.[5] Due to pioneering research into the transportability of the fruit by John Pilkington Hudson and others at the agriculture department in Wellington, this was the first international export of the kiwifruit.[6]

Rebranding the Chinese gooseberry[edit]

As the local popularity of this fruit increased, New Zealanders discarded the local Chinese name for the fruit (yáng táo[a])[8] in favor of the name Chinese gooseberry.[9] Among the exporters was the prominent produce company Turners and Growers, who were calling the berries melonettes, because the local name for the fruit, Chinese gooseberry, had political connotations due to the Cold War, and to further distinguish it from real gooseberries, which are prone to a fungus called anthracnose. An American importer, Norman Sondag of San Francisco, complained that melonettes was as bad as Chinese gooseberry because melons and berries were both subject to high import tariffs, and instead asked for a short Maori name that quickly connoted New Zealand.[9] In June 1959, during a meeting of Turners and Growers management in Auckland, Jack Turner suggested the name kiwifruit which was adopted and later became the industry-wide name.[10] In the 1960s and 1970s, Frieda Caplan, founder of Los Angeles-based Frieda's Finest (aka Frieda's Inc./Frieda's Specialty Produce) played a key role in popularising kiwifruit in the United States, convincing supermarket produce managers to carry the odd-looking fruit.[11]

Industry maturation[edit]

The growth of the export market during this time was composed of individual growers, grower cooperatives, exporters and distributors. An attempt to develop a joint marketing effort saw the establishment of the Kiwifruit Export Promotion Committee in 1970, followed by the Kiwifruit Marketing Licensing Authority in 1977. The Kiwifruit Marketing Licensing Authority had the rights to establish market standards such as fruit size, quality and packaging of kiwifruit for export markets, the Authority also acted as an adviser to the government. This gave growers some control of licensing exporters.[2]

Industry growth[edit]

The total volume of kiwifruit exports rapidly increased from the late 1960s to early 1970s. During this time, the number or exporting firms also dramatically increased. By 1976, the total volume of fruit New Zealand produced had exceeded the volume domestically consumed.[12]

Loss of competitive advantage[edit]

In the 1980s other countries began to export kiwifruit, and New Zealand lost its first-mover advantage. The seven licensed exporters in New Zealand were in fierce competition, driving down prices. This reduced grower profitability and caused fluctuations in both supply and demand.

Reaction to competition[edit]

In the 1990s, the export arrangement was reorganised in response to pressure from increasing fruit supplies from competing overseas export markets. To regain profitability and stability, the New Zealand Government and growers colluded to establish a single-desk export arrangement. This granted a monopoly on the marketing of kiwifruit to Zespri and mandated that all suppliers sell their products through this single buyer (see also monopsony) for all exports outside of Australasia.

All New Zealand kiwifruits are marketed under the brand-name label Zespri. The branding move is also intended to distinguish New Zealand kiwifruit from other fruit and prevent other companies from gaining benefit from the New Zealand Kiwifruit Marketing Board's (a subsidiary of Zespri) activities.

Zespri International Ltd. is owned by 2,700 local growers through Zespri Group Ltd which was established in 2000.[2] Zespri has the role of promoting and selling kiwifruit in overseas markets as well as establishing regulations on which kiwifruit can be sold in the export markets.[2]

State of the industry[edit]

Turners & Growers began to challenge Zespri’s export monopoly of New Zealand’s Kiwifruit industry in 2009 to gain the right to export their own kiwifruit varieties without using Zespri. However, in October 2011 the case was dropped in response to pressures from a new bacterial disease causing devastating losses in kiwifruit.[13]

In November 2010, plant symptoms were discovered that suggested that Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (PSA), a variant of the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae, were present in a Bay of Plenty kiwifruit orchard in the North Island.[14] Provisions of the Biosecurity Act 1993 have been used to limit its spread. These measures were continued in 2011, but were largely unsuccessful with most orchards in the Bay of Plenty displaying some level of infection by November 2011. Some of the attacks in the Bay of Plenty were by the virulent strain PSA-V. The disease is worldwide, with serious attacks in Italy and France also in 2011.[15] [16] [17] [18] [19]

In mid-2013 a China-based Zespri subsidiary was fined nearly $1M for under-declaring customs duties, and the Serious Fraud Office launched an investigation into Zespri itself in October 2013.[20]

Production volumes[edit]

Invasive plant[edit]

The kiwifruit vine has become an invasive plant species in the Bay of Plenty Region due initially to the dumping of fruit next to bush remnants.[21] The Department of Conservation, responsible for protecting public land, classify Actinidia deliciosa as an environmental weed.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-04. 
  2. ^ a b c d Skallerud, Kare; Olsen, Svein (2011). "Export Market Arrangements in Four New Zealand Agriculture Industrues: An Institutional Perspective". Journal of International Food and Agribusiness Marketing. 23 (4): 310–329. doi:10.1080/08974438.2011.621841. Retrieved 29 November 2012. 
  3. ^ "Isabel Fraser: Hand carried the first kiwifruit seeds from China". Zespri Kiwifriut. Archived from the original on 12 September 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  4. ^ "Hayward Kiwifruits Namesake". Zespri. Retrieved 29 November 2012. 
  5. ^ "First Commercial Kiwifruit Grower and Explorer". Zespri. Retrieved 29 November 2012. 
  6. ^ ODNB entry: Retrieved 24 June 2011. Subscription required.
  7. ^ "Kiwifruit". The World's Healthiest Foods. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  8. ^ "Kiwifruit's name". Zespri Kiwifruit. Archived from the original on 13 May 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Green, Emily (8 May 2002). "Kiwi, Act II". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  10. ^ "How Kiwifruit Got Its Name". Zespri. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2007. 
  11. ^ Sarah Lyall (17 May 1987). "What's New in Exotic Fruit: Putting a Kiwi in Every Lunch Box". New York Times. Retrieved 10 November 2010. 
  12. ^ Sayeeda Bano and Frank Scrimgeour (June 2011). "New Zealand Kiwifruit Export Performance: Market Analysis and Revealed Comparative Advantage" (PDF). University of Waikato. Retrieved 28 November 2012. 
  13. ^ "German owners of Turners & Growers extend olive branch to Zespri". The New Zealand Herald. 4 April 2012. Retrieved 29 November 2012. 
  14. ^ "Suspected Bacterial Vine Infection". MAF Biosecurity New Zealand. 8 November 2010. Retrieved 9 November 2010. 
  15. ^ "Kiwifruit vine disease by MAF Biosecurity NZ". 
  16. ^ Watson, Peter (25 January 2011). "More virulent PSA strain a new worry for kiwifruit growers". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 4 September 2011. 
  17. ^ Fox, Andrea (25 May 2011). "Renewed fears as PSA devastates European orchards". The Dominion Post. Retrieved 4 September 2011. 
  18. ^ Hembry, Owen (25 August 2011). "Relief for kiwifruit industry". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 September 2011. 
  19. ^ Hueber, Andre (28 August 2011). "Antiobiotic vine spray 'crazy'". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 September 2011. 
  20. ^ Serious Fraud Office investigating Zespri. Radio NZ. 22 October 2013.
  21. ^ W Lee, P Heenan, J Sullivan, P Williams "Limiting new invasive weeds in New Zealand—some emerging issues" Protect Spring 2001
  22. ^ Clayson, Howell (May 2008). Consolidated list of environmental weeds in New Zealand. Wellington: Department of Conservation. ISBN 978-0-478-14412-3. 


  1. ^ A name that originally referred to the kiwifruit, but often refers to the starfruit[7]

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