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Kiwifruit prices going through the roof

Kiwifruit prices are among the highest they've been in the past 30 years as a result of low supply.

New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry brings in nearly $910 million to the Bay of Plenty annually. The New Zealand Kiwi Fruit Growers Inc. reported that in the spring, more than 2,500 growers harvested approximately 12,000 hectares of kiwifruit, which were marketed to more than 50 countries.

“New Zealand has some of the best growing conditions in the world for kiwifruit and we are looking forward to more good volumes,” Doug Brown, NZKGI’s chairperson, said at the time. “Many areas were affected by wet weather which delayed the start of harvest, but most of us can now roll up our sleeves and get picking and packing.”

The harvest of the SunGold variety this season was significantly more than the harvest last year, while the green Hayward variety came in a little less. Although the total volume was slightly lower than 2016, Brown called the year a “good harvest” overall.

In Italy, more than 60 percent of kiwi orchards were damaged in various areas in Lazio after an unexpected April frost that affected Rome to the entire Latina area. Coming off last year’s lower-than-expected volumes, which had also been caused by unpredictable spring weather, this has caused low supply and higher prices.

Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager for Stellar Distributing, located in Madera, CA, has been involved in the kiwi industry since 1986 and in his 30-plus years has never seen prices of kiwi at the level they were in late summer this year.

“One of the big issues is the frost that happened in the Latina and Demonte areas of Italy, with 15 to 40 percent of the crop lost,” he said. “There’s nothing in the pipeline from New Zealand and we foresee kiwi prices will be strong until they get started again in mid-March.”

The company does around 3 million boxes of kiwifruit annually, and Cappelluti has noticed that a lack of green kiwi and a rise of gold has also impacted prices.

“The New Zealand green crop is down more than it’s ever been in the last 30 years because they planted so much gold, so there’s a shortage of green kiwi all over right now,” he said. “Obviously, gold is great, but this lack of production for green has given us less to sell.”

Stateside, California has had to fallow and burn over 1.4 million acres of farmland/crops in the last few years due to the water crisis and that’s affected the kiwifruit production a great deal.

In California, the kiwifruit season runs from late September through early April, and this year’s crop is expected to be down slightly from 2016’s total of 31,324 tons. Nick Matteis, executive director of California Grown, and manager of the California Kiwifruit Administrative Committee, sees strong quality ahead.

Sarah Deaton, marketing manager for Zespri, based in Newport Beach, CA, said there is a great deal that can be done at retail to help move more kiwifruit, starting with displaying it next to other popular summer fruit such as stone fruit, berries and melons.

“Kiwifruit should be positioned near fruit with similar pricing strategies to showcase better value for the consumer,” she said. “Additionally, building large displays of kiwifruit help make this nutritious fruit more visible to consumers. Our branded display bins and packages help retailers inform consumers of the nutritional value of our kiwifruit.”

In-store demos are also helpful for retail sales as it offers the opportunity for consumers to taste new varieties. Deaton feels cross-promoting kiwifruit with berries, yogurt and chips and kiwi salsa are also terrific promotional ideas.