The U.S. has asked the World Trade Organization for more information from the government of New Zealand about a dispute concerning the country’s single-desk kiwifruit export marketing group.

“The U.S. has simply requested some more information in response to a routine notification by New Zealand,” said Nefeterius Akeli McPherson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative. She said that a New Zealand press story that said the U.S. was accusing Zespri of abusing monopoly power was incorrect.

The Packer has previously reported that Auckland-based Turners & Growers Ltd. filed suit in July challenging legislation that maintains Zespri's position as a near-monopoly exporter of kiwifruit.

Currently, Turners & Growers must go through Zespri to market all export fruit except for Australia. The lawsuit charges Zespri with anti-competitive practices.

The White House statement to the WTO, obtained and published Nov. 23 on the Web site of a New Zealand TV station that New Zealand authorities to “please expand on the court documents alleging anticompetitive behavior and abuse of Zespri’s dominant position.”

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports that New Zealand exported about 625,000 metric tons of kiwifruit in 2005, with about 18% shipped to Japan, 12% sold to Spain, 5.3% sold to Italy and 4.3% sold to the U.S.

Exports of New Zealand kiwifruit to the U.S. have been rising in volume and value in recent years, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

In 2008, New Zealand exported about 21,200 metric tons of kiwifruit to the U.S. with a value of $28 million. That compares with volume of 13,500 metric tons shipped to the U.S. in 2004, valued at $13.8 million.

U.S. asks for information on Zespri Kiwifruit dispute