The New Zealand government is joining forces with Zespri International Ltd., the New Zealand-based global marketing organization, to develop new kiwifruit varieties.

New Zealand launches search for new kiwifruit varieties

The budget for the seven-year-long effort will be nearly $36 million, according to a news release, with the government contributing $15.2 million and Zespri putting up $20.5 million. The funds will go to Zespri’s plant and food research division.

The result will be the world’s largest and most significant research and development program into new kiwifruit varieties, the release said. The research program will target new varieties differentiated by appearance, and sensory or health attributes.

“By investing in a proven partnership, we are able to make a step increase in the number of new cultivars developed in the breeding program and introduce cutting-edge plant breeding, screening and evaluation technologies to gain greater efficiencies and reduce the time to market,” Bruce Campbell, chief operating officer of the plant and food research program, said in the release.

The government’s investment in the program demonstrates its commitment to the nation’s horticulture sector and to achieving targets for growing New Zealand’s export market, the release said.

A goal of the horticulture sector is to double the value of its annual earnings to $10 billion by 2020, the release said.

Zespri Gold, a product of the existing breeding program and currently worth more than $468 million in annual global revenues, is an industry success story and a benchmark for all new cultivar development.

“By investing in the most rigorous and exacting kiwifruit R&D program, we can ensure that new generations of New Zealand kiwifruit are the best in the world and that their commercial success delivers value and export earnings to New Zealand and New Zealand growers,” Lain Jager, chief operating officer for Zespri, said in the release.

New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry was launched in 1952 when pioneering growers exported the fruit to England. The country’s Kiwifruit Marketing Board was formed in the 1970s. It evolved into Zespri International in 1997.