Friday, April 24, 2009

Kiwifruit dumping sad but a bold necessity

The so called 'dumping' of 60 000 trays of top quality Kiwifruit by Zespri shows they don't let emotion get in the way of business and good on them.

By keeping back the Kiwifruit Zespri is protecting its reputation as the finest Kiwifruit producer in the world and growers' export margins.

While it seems a travesty, unduly heralded by the likes of the Nelson Mail, that the fruit is not sold or distributed freely on the domestic market, it shows good business nous and you have to say that some of our meat companies could learn from this stance, particularly from when Farmgirl was last in the UK and saw NZ lamb sliding off the shelf for a pittance because the meat companies (one in particular) flooded the market.

The result of that debacle was that NZ lamb slid from being a high quality meat product British housewives were prepared to pay good money for, to a budget tray that seemed to signal the meat was just as poor in quality as the rubbish coming in from the EU.

When in the UK in 2001 Farmgirl spent several days talking to supermarket customers as to what they preferred in their sheep meat options. Back then almost every single person you came across said if they had the money they would almost always buy Kiwi lamb even though it was more expensive because they perceived it was the best in the world. Two years ago Farmgirl asked the same questions in Irish and English supermarkets and was greeted by completely different answers and some angry butchers. Kiwi lamb was perceived as cheap and therefore not as good as the British counterpart because it had flooded the market.

The end result was some poor returns, a driving down in the lamb market and some angry New Zealand farmers to boot.

How then is Zespri the villain for doing the right thing and protecting its growers? As Farmgirl hinted above, the reporting on the 'dumping' has been sensationalised. By dumping Zespri doesn't mean destroying altogether. Surely most of it will be used in animal food etc.

And for those humanitarians among us, forget Bob Geldof and his Band Aid cause, the slagging off of the EU for dumping tonnes of butter and other products that he felt could have gone to Africa in the 80s - Kiwifruit is not a suitable option and would cost a lot of money to transport and would be difficult to maintain fresh to reach those parts of the world.

Good on Zespri - it takes guts to maintain a business in this PC world.