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Zespri suspends shipments to China

NZN 5/08/2016 Paul McBeth

Zespri International has temporarily halted exports to China while it puts in place new checking protocols after Chinese authorities tagged the fruit marketer when four containers of kiwifruit were found with a fruit-rotting fungus.

The Tauranga-based company is working with suppliers and the Ministry for Primary Industries to develop new pre-shipping measures, which it hopes to have in place in the next few days, it said in a statement. Once MPI has approved the measures it will resume exports to China for the 2016 season.

Last week China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) issued a risk notification and strengthened inspection and quarantine processes on New Zealand kiwifruit entering Chinese ports after finding the fungus Neofabraea actinidiae, which causes fruit to rot but has not food safety implications.

"Zespri's rigorous quality systems for checking and rechecking our fruit means this affects only a tiny fraction of the 135 million trays we're shipping this season," a spokeswoman said. "We had forecast sales of another 8 million trays of kiwifruit to China this season, with around 1 million trays of this now being reallocated to other markets."

Separately, Zespri said a number of additional pellets were placed on hold in China this week as they weren't subject to the new checking protocols, and while Chinese sales were on track to exceed last year's volume there was an increased risk of the fungus being found in fruit that hadn't been subject to the stricter controls.

In June, the kiwifruit marketer raised its full-year profit forecast to between $70 million and $75m for the 2016/17 year. Zespri is anticipating China will become its largest market by sales this year, reaching about $500m.

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