Get ready for red kiwifruit

Last updated 12:52 26/04/2009

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Kiwifruit fans tiring of the traditional green version and its yellow-fleshed cousin could soon have a more colourful option on the end of their teaspoon.

Plant and Food Research and Zespri are developing a red- centered kiwifruit that suits New Zealand conditions and can be exported.

A variety of red-centred kiwifruit, called Hongyang, already exists but it doesn't travel or store well so researchers are working on developing a more commercially useful version that can feed the huge export market.

The new red fruit is slightly smaller than the traditional green kiwifruit and has a sweet taste that resembles a tamarillo.

Around the core is a deep red colour, which changes to yellow- green nearer the green skin.

Zespri has the largest kiwifruit species breeding programme in the world, keeping up to 50,000 seedlings in trial.

"We are trying to deliver the next generation of kiwifruit for the market to grow and increase the brand around the world," said Rosstan Mazey, green produce category manager for Zespri.

Taste, colour, appearance and export characteristics of current kiwifruit varieties are also being improved to increase commercial value.

Four others species are undergoing final stages of testing, including a gold kiwifruit that can be harvested earlier in the season and a sweeter-tasting green kiwifruit.

The programme does not involve genetic engineering; instead there is cross-pollination of existing species.

Ten years ago Zespri Gold was launched on the international market and now accounts for 30% of Zespri's market value.

Worldwide, kiwifruit are now grown predominantly in China, with smaller-scale production in Chile and France.

Zespri supplies more than 75 countries with 30% of the world's internationally traded kiwifruit and valued at $1.3 billion.

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- Sunday Star Times

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