The New Zealand kiwifruit industry has created a non-profit organization to help battle a bacterial vine disease, which as of Dec. 1 had been found in 100 orchards.

New Zealand kiwifruit non-profit to tackle vine disease

Pseudomonas syringae pv actinidiae, or PSA, has been found in orchards near Te Puke, Hawke’s Bay, Tauranga, Whakatane/Edgecumbe, Waikato, Golden Bay, Motueka and Gisbome, Andrea Brady, a spokeswoman for Mt. Maunganui, New Zealand-based Zespri International Ltd., the exclusive exporter of the country’s kiwifruit, said Dec. 1.

The affected orchards represent about 1% of the country’s total acreage, Brady said. Thirty-nine of the 100 orchards produce green kiwifruit.

The new non-profit, Kiwifruit Vine Health Inc., was created Dec. 1 at an industry meeting, Brady said. The organization plans to implement an aggressive containment strategy, negotiate with the government and Zespri on funding, make payments to growers and develop and implement a long-term pest management and monitoring plan.

The non-profit’s seven directors include representatives from Zespri, post-harvest suppliers, New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. and the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Peter McBride, Zespri’s deputy chairman, is the board chairman. A chief executive officer is expected to be named soon.

The ministry reported the discovery of PSA Nov. 8. On Nov. 17, the ministry announced a $50 million joint government/industry investment to fight PSA. Both will contribute $25 million to the effort.

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 2007-08.

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.