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Zespri meets China's foreign minister over illegal plantings

Photo: 123rf

Zespri and its board advisor Sir John Key have met with China's foreign minister to discuss the illegal plantings of Gold3 kiwifruit in the country.

Zespri owns the rights to Sun Gold, or G3, and growers in New Zealand pay hundreds of thousands of dollars per hectare to grow it.

A grower took clippings to China in 2016 and since then the amount being grown has been increasing.

Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson said the unauthorised plantings remain a significant challenge with around 8000ha in the ground in China, putting at risk the significant investment by growers through the potential for oversupply.

Sir John met with Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on Monday. Mathieson said the meeting involved discussions around the importance of IP protection.

"We have been encouraged by the support we've received from within China as we've sought to address the challenge of unauthorised Gold3 kiwifruit plantings in China. This includes the steps taken to amend its Seed Law to grant stronger protections to investors in plant varieties."

Mathieson said Zespri continued to work alongside New Zealand industry leaders on a constructive way forward, and looked forward to continuing these discussions with growers and with China and to delivering long-term, mutual benefits for both industries.

"Strong IP protection would be critical to any such partnership, which would rely on New Zealand grower support. Zespri has also launched legal action in China as part of our efforts to address the issue."

He said the meeting was also a chance to highlight the strength of the relationship between Zespri and China - one of Zespri's largest export markets.

"Zespri is proud to have been operating in China for more than 20 years now. The market is incredibly important to us, making up around 25 percent of our sales volume with approximately NZ$1 billion of fruit sold in China every year.

"Today's meeting was an opportunity to discuss our commitment to China and our significant investment over the years, with Zespri now operating from offices in five locations in Greater China, with more than 100 staff."

Prime Minister John Key takes part in the Maori blessing of the Singapore office, led by carver James Tapiata (left).

Then-Prime Minister John Key, centre, at the Māori blessing of Zespri's Singapore office in 2015. Photo: Supplied

Sir John Key said the meeting was constructive and reflected the standing of Zespri in China.

"Zespri is one of New Zealand's leading companies and certainly one of our most prominent in China. The foreign minister was very complimentary of Zespri's track record here and commitment to the China market and of New Zealand's high-quality produce.

"He was reassuring that New Zealand could have confidence in China. We also respectfully raised the issue of the unauthorised plantings and the foreign minister was very understanding of the issue and committed that the matter would be handled according to the law."

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