New Zealand kiwifruit giant Zespri said Friday it has temporarily halted all exports to China, its biggest market, after a fungus was found in two containers during routine checks.
Zespri general manager of grower and external relations David Courtney told Radio New Zealand that the fungus had not been found before on New Zealand kiwifruit in China or in any other market, but it had been present on fruit in New Zealand for 20 years.
Shipping to China would be halted for up to a week to have the time to implement new protocols such as adding additional layers of checks before export, Courtney said.
China bought just under 20 percent, or about 500 million NZ dollars (360.65 million U.S. dollars), of New Zealand's kiwifruit exports, Courtney said, and China was responding appropriately to the risk.
A number of containers on the wharf in New Zealand due for departure would be repacked according to the new protocols, he said.
In April, Zespri announced it was expanding its presence in China, including the possibility growing kiwifruit there as part of a plan for year-round supply.
The grower-owned company said 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, was broadening 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.
Record sales in China last year have helped to rebuild New Zealand's kiwifruit industry as it recovers from the Psa vine-killing disease.