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The Business of Kiwi

CNBC.com
Thursday, 18 Oct 2007 | 5:13 AM ET

Ask any New Zealander, better known as Kiwis, -- what is ugly as sin and tasty as hell? -- and the response you will get is a kiwi!

AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian
Gary Kazanjian
AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian

No, we don't mean a person from New Zealand, and we are not referring to the flightless bird either. We are talking about the kiwifruit, which surprisingly, isn't native to New Zealand. The fuzzy green brown fruit actually comes from China!

The kiwifruit, also known as actinidia deliciosa, is native to southern China. Cultivation spread from the mainland in the early 20th century, when seeds were introduced to New Zealand by Isabel Fraser, the principal of Wanganui Girls' College, who had been visiting mission schools in China. The seeds were planted in 1906 by a Wanganui nurseryman, Alexander Allison, with the vines first fruiting in 1910.

It is nearly a hundred years since the first tiny black kiwifruit seeds were transported from their native China to the rich rural countryside of New Zealand. Much has changed in that time. The fruit is now synonymous with the country and even bears its nickname.

The Business of Kiwi
Discussing the kiwi business in New Zealand with Tony Nowell, CEO of Zespri, CNBC's Martin Soong and Amanda Drury.

But things have not been that fruitful for kiwi growers of late.

New Zealand kiwifruit farmer earnings may fall 14 percent this season as a stronger currency and competition in key markets reduces returns, said Zespri International, the world's largest exporter of the fruit.

Grower returns are expected to fall to NZ$6.40 a tray from NZ$7.41 last year, according to early Zespri estimates.

Zepri's chief executive Tony Nowell tells us more about the fortunes of New Zealand's prized fruit.