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Performance / Taste and Maturity: Update 1

Taste and Maturity: Update 1

Dear Industry,

There is currently a review of elements of the maturity sampling, taste programme and the broader interaction of grower incentives underway.  This review is being led by a sub-group of the Industry Advisory Council, with the members of that group being:

  • NZKGI: Doug Brown, Sally Gardiner and Mark Mayston
  • Post-Harvest: Ian Coventry, Michael Franks and Hamish Simson
  • Zespri: Tony Hawken, Blair Hamill and Dave Courtney.

Peter McBride is chairman of the group.

The sub-committee has been taking feedback from industry on these issues and has met twice now to consider how this feedback may lead to changing elements of the current maturity sampling system, taste and incentives programmes.

The following is to update you on those discussions and to outline some of the process going forward.

The Committee met on Friday 29 May to agree on a mandate and a process for considering these issues and again on Tuesday 9 June to agree on key principles and areas for further investigation relating to taste. This included the consideration of discussion documents put forward by each of the committee members, as well as initial feedback provided by growers.

The committee has agreed on the following principles:

  • The Minimum Taste Standard should remain in place to ensure only good tasting fruit gets to market, driving value and repeat purchase
  • Beyond that, the committee will consider further options to incentivise taste to reflect consumer demand for higher tasting fruit
  • Given the value, maturity and taste testing must also continue and the integrity of that testing is critical
  • Dry matter will be the measure of taste for 2021
  • Sampling will be on-orchard for 2021

Beyond these key principles are a series of critical questions relating to taste that will be considered. These include:

  • The committee wants to understand in more detail the relationship between consumer liking and dry matter
  • Whether we express taste results to growers as TZG or in dry matter percentages
  • Whether taste payments should be capped and if so, at what point, beyond which the additional value to growers is not reflected in the additional price paid by consumers
  • The graduation of taste payments and consideration of a concept of paying on taste ‘buckets’ that are aligned with the taste bands (Y, T & M)
  • Whether fruit sizes can be grouped for Gold3 maturity clearance
  • What are the detrimental outcomes driven by paying for taste and how can these be addressed to ensure optimal value of the crop e.g. impact of declining fruit pressures driven by growers holding off harvest to maximise taste payment
  • How would these matters differ in high and low dry matter years
  • How these payments help ensure post-harvest efficiency, and thus more money is returned to growers
  • Whether dry matter is the correct method for measuring taste or whether there are better alternatives (noting that thiswill not be considered for the 2021 season)
  • Whether sampling can be at a place other than the orchard (noting that this will also not be considered for the 2021 season)
  • Whether the sampling and lab testing needs be independent, and if not, what oversight is put in place to ensure testing is accurate and robust

The committee has asked for further information on these matters to inform its discussion going forward.

The committee in the following meetings will consider the level of taste payments, maturity clearance, sampling and laboratory testing in more detail and subsequently how the incentive programmes, particularly KiwiStart and time payments, integrate with the concepts.

Notably, the committee has agreed that Zespri should begin the process of building a system for managing the data related to clearance and taste testing for the 2021 season. This is to ensure potential providers can start developing their proposals and allow for the system to be developed in time for the 2021 season.

There will be an opportunity for industry input into the wider review to help inform the review and the subsequent decisions, with details on that process to follow. In the meantime the representatives of the group are available to discuss the process.


Peter McBride, on behalf of the sub-committee.