New Zealand kiwifruit giant Zespri is expanding its presence in China, including the possibility growing kiwifruit in China as part of a plan for year-round supply.
The grower-owned company said Friday it was expanding its representative offices in China, raising staff numbers from 25 to 90 over the next three years and investigating kiwifruit cultivation with local partners.
Zespri, which entered the Chinese market over a decade ago, would broaden its distribution and sales from tier one and two cities and the eastern seaboard to inland into other large provincial cities and more tier two and tier three cities.
"This expansion will be supported by new regional offices opening this year in Guangzhou, Xi'an and Chongqing and our in-market staff numbers are set to treble over the next few years," chief executive Lain Jager said in a statement.
"We are excited about the potential of partnering with Chinese growers to supply the important domestic market season with Zespri-branded kiwifruit in the long term. This will support our key strategy of 12-month supply and aligns to the partnership approach we have with growers and post-harvest partners in Italy, France, (South) Korea and Japan."
The 2016 season in China was set to be a record-breaking season.
"China is poised to become Zespri's number one market by volume this season and will account for around one fifth of all our sales. We anticipate sales of around 24 million trays in 2016, up about one-third from the 18 million trays sold last season," said Jager.
The record sales in China last year have helped to rebuild New Zealand's kiwifruit industry as it recovers from the Psa (Pseudomonas syringae pv actinidiae) vine-killing disease.
New Zealand produced around 30 percent of the globally traded volume of kiwifruit, but the Psa disease had affected around 85 percent of orchards since its discovery in 2010.