Zespri says it has found the grower distributing kiwifruit varieties to China.
The New Zealand kiwifruit grower has been found who allegedly distributed Zespri’s SunGold and Gold9 varieties to Chinese growers in breach of the company’s plant variety rights.
Action had been taken against the Zespri grower and shareholder, Zespri chief operating officer Simon Limmer said at the company’s annual meeting in Tauranga.
“We have cancelled their licence and have refused their crop this year and we have actually required them to cut the vines off,” Limmer said.
There was potential for Zespri to take a civil case against the grower and it was more than likely the company would do this. Zespri was working its way through the legal process, Limmer said. “This is a significant breach of IP (intellectual property) and we are taking that pretty seriously.”
The kiwifruit company had also identified the sites in China where the varieties had been planted and had been able to track where the products had gone. Zespri chief executive Lain Jager says growers are unhappy that kiwifruit varieties had gone to China through wrong channels.
Zespri chief executive Lain Jager says growers are unhappy that kiwifruit varieties had gone to China through wrong channels.
“It’s crossed four different provinces, there are a number of different sites that we are looking at.”
Enforcing intellectual property (IP) laws was a challenge in China, and Zespri was working closely with Chinese authorities who had been very helpful, he said.
“The track record for enforcing IP in China is very poor, and there aren’t any precedents in the horticulture sector for this type of case, but we are pleased and confident with the response we have had from the Chinese officials.
“We are just going to have to walk our way through it and see where it takes us, but … this is something we are taking very seriously and we will be putting an enormous amount of effort into it given the value of this product to New Zealand kiwifruit growers.”
Chief executive Lain Jager said the grower had not been publicly identified and there would be “significant anger” in the grower community that the varieties had gone to China through the wrong channels.
“We want to be prudent and sensible about it.”
Growers had heavily invested in this kiwifruit variety and they wanted to ensure that value was protected, Limmer added.
China was Zespri’s largest market and its high presence in this marketplace meant they were able to identify this issue early on, he said.
Zespri was tipped off in April last year about non-Zespri fruit being grown and sold in China and had begun its own investigations. It zealously guards its rights over the varieties, which can take 10 years to develop.
The company sells licences to growers on a country-by-country basis, which can only be transferred within the same country subject to the rules of each licence.
Kiwifruit growers had paid out a median price of up to $200,000 per hectare each for licences to grow the sought-after SunGold variety.
The system allows Zespri to earn revenue off the licences, but it also lets it manage production closely, which assists its global marketing.
Zespri owns the rights to SunGold for at least another 20 years.
Readi in full: https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/96131772/kiwifruit-grower-identified-who-breached-zespris-intellectual-property-rules-and-sent-kiwifruit-to-china