(UPDATED COVERAGE, Nov. 18) The number of kiwifruit orchards in New Zealand testing positive for a bacterial vine disease has risen to 37.

New Zealand kiwifruit disease spreads

Pseudomonas syringae pv actinidiae, or PSA, has been found in 37 orchards in the Te Puke region of the country, Andrea Brady, a spokeswoman for Mt. Maunganui, New Zealand-based Zespri International Ltd., the exclusive exporter of the country’s kiwifruit, said Nov. 18.

The affected orchards make up just over 1%of New Zealand kiwifruit volumes, Brady said. She said it was too early to tell what effect, if any, the outbreak could have on next season’s volumes. Twenty-nine of the 37 orchards produce gold kiwifruit, eight green.

On Nov. 17, the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry announced a $50 million joint government/industry investment to fight PSA. Both will contribute $25 million to the effort.

The ministry announced the discovery of PSA Nov. 8.

PSA poses no health risk to humans or animals and only affects kiwifruit, and it cannot be transmitted on kiwifruit. The disease was found in Italy in 1992, according to the New Zealand ministry. Economic losses there were not significant until 2007-2008.

Volume losses in Italy from PSA could be as high as 20% this year, though it was unclear how it would affect U.S. imports, said Nick Matteis, assistant manager of the Sacramento-based California Kiwifruit Commission.

Through September, about 8,600 metric tons of Italian kiwifruit had been imported year to date, up from 8,100 metric tons last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

New Zealand kiwifruit is typically available in the U.S. from May to October. Through September, about 17,300 metric tons had been exported to the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. About 20,400 metric tons were shipped to the U.S. in all of 2009.