(May 25) New Zealand kiwifruit shipments, which will start arriving at U.S. ports the first week of June, are expected to remain the same as last year’s volumes.

Retailers, however, are preparing for much larger-sized fruit.

The shift in sizes will be made easier, thanks to a larger-than-average size profile during the California kiwifruit season, said Karen Brux, North American general manager for Zespri International Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand. Zespri is the lone sales agent for New Zealand growers, and The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, markets about 95% of the North American imports.

Tom Richardson, manager of the Wenatchee, Wash., division of The Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles, said Chilean kiwifruit are seeing good demand. Richardson’s office oversees Giumarra’s California, New Zealand and Chile kiwifruit programs.

Chilean shipments started in mid-March and will end in late August or early September. This is the third season for Giumarra’s New Zealand kiwifruit program.

Other importers include Vanguard International Inc., Issaquah, Wash., and Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista, Calif., Brux said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on May 23 reported 10-kilogram cartons of the hayward variety selling for $16-18 for 23-27s, $15-16 for 30-33s and $14 for 42s. Last season’s May market topped out at $12 for the larger sizes.

Brux, who is based in Burlingame, Calif., said the New Zealand harvest was winding down in late May, but shipments from storage of gold kiwifruit will run into late September or early October, and the prevalent green variety will be available through November, curtailing when California’s harvest arrives.

Although New Zealand kiwifruit sizes typically average 33-34, sunny days during the growing season helped the fruit grow larger, Brux said. Based on consumer reaction from California’s season, that could help retailers sell more, at a higher price.

“We talked with some top-10 chains who saw double-digit sales increases, and at higher price levels,” she said. “Because of some of the successes California had, it made it easier to go in and talk to them about, ‘Instead of a (size) 33, how about a 25 to 27?’ We’ve had a very positive response and it will be interesting to see how sales go.”

The first ship containing the fruit is scheduled to arrive at Los Angeles June 2, with another vessel arriving at Philadelphia June 7.