Kiwifruit bounces back

Last updated 05:00 14/06/2014

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Kiwifruit volumes are bouncing back after the devastating Psa disease which wreaked havoc on orchards following its arrival in 2010.

"Growers are extremely optimistic and we are now seeing orchard sale prices higher than prior to the arrival of Psa," president of NZ Kiwifruit Growers, Neil Trebilco said.

The growers' optimism is supported by figures from a new report by the Ministry for Primary Industries, forecasting that export volumes of both green and gold kiwifruit will be at pre-Psa levels by 2017, at 106 million trays.

But Trebilco said these forecasts were "a bit conservative", and predicted that by 2016 growers would be exporting 110 million trays.

Central to the recovery is the Gold3 cultivar, a variety that was commercialised in 2010.

"Psa has not gone away but we are very fortunate to have Gold3, which was one of two cultivars released at the same time. Gold3 is the most tolerant of Psa, and it's 30 per cent more productive than the Hort16A cultivar that it replaced," Trebilco said.

The Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report said the total value of exported kiwifruit to the year ended March 2014 was $817 million, down from last year's $1.04 billion.

However by 2018, total value would rebound to $1.11b.

At present about 75 per cent of kiwifruit is green, but by 2018 the industry is expected to be split 50:50 between green and gold.

New Zealand growers were able to keep ahead of competitors like Chile because of its new cultivar programme.

"Chile hasn't planted Gold3 yet, and because it also has both a fungal disease and Psa, its industry is not doing well," Trebilco said. More than 76 per cent of kiwifruit orchards are known to have the deadly Psa bacterium present, up from 70 per cent one year ago, and 40 per cent two years ago. Hort16A , the main gold kiwifruit cultivar grown before Psa, is particularly susceptible to Psa. To date, 2394 hectares (more than 85 per cent) of Hort16A vines have been removed because of the disease.

Growers can graft the Gold3 cultivar on to surviving rootstock. The re-grafted vines are out of production for one harvest and take three years or more to reach peak production. Fairfax NZ

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- Taranaki Daily News

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