Zespri Group is upbeat about the current financial year despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, having reported a 12 per cent increase in annual profit and returned almost $2 billion to the industry.

Net profit rose to $200.8 million in the year to March 31 from $178.9 million a year earlier. Operating revenue was $3.36 billion with fruit sales of $3.14 billion.

Zespri sold 164.4 million trays of New Zealand and non-New Zealand-grown kiwifruit, a 2 percent decline on the year.

Total fruit and service payments, which are returns direct to the New Zealand industry, increased by 8 per cent to $1.96 billion.  

The board expects to pay a dividend of 94 cents a share, up from 92 cents the prior year.

Zespri has 2800 growers in New Zealand and 1800 growers based elsewhere.

“Overall, 2019/20 was another strong year for Zespri with continued growth in our largest markets including Japan, Greater China and Europe,” says chief executive Dan Mathieson.

Optimistic outlook

Dan says 2020/21 is shaping up to be another solid year despite the impact of COVID-19.

Zespri was named an essential service and was able to keep operating throughout the lockdown after it implemented safety protocols.

“The response from the industry to COVID-19 has been incredible, coming together to ensure we could get fruit off the vines and into market in spite of the restrictions both here and offshore."

The coming season is one of the largest by volume – albeit with smaller green varieties due to dry weather – and global demand is significant, he added.

“Risks to our outlook include wider concerns around consumer purchasing power being negatively affected by the global economic turmoil, changes to the normal flow of fruit trade and also potential disruption across our global supply chains.

"Zespri remains focused on ensuring we’re able to respond to such eventualities and on delivering returns to growers."

-Originally published by BusinessDesk.