5 Apr 2012

Zespri welcomes change in tack

7:34 am on 5 April 2012

Zespri says Turners & Growers appears to be taking a more reasonable and pragmatic approach than it has in the past.

After years of challenging Zespri's monopoly export powers in court action and political lobbying, Turners & Growers wants to change tack and focus on co-operation rather than conflict.

Turners & Growers is now 73% owned by BayWa of Germany.

The company's campaign to deregulate the industry was driven by its failure to get approval from the kiwifruit regulating authority to export its own new varieties under what's known as a collaborative marketing agreement.

New chief executive, Geoff Hipkins is meeting Zespri on Thursday to continue those collaborative marketing discussions.

Zespri grower relations general manager Simon Limmer says Turners & Growers has modified its proposals and that, along with its change of approach, have made the prospects of getting a positive outcome a lot brighter.

He says it allows Zespri to look to the future rather than relitigating the past.

Still NZ company

Meanwhile BayWa says Turners & Growers will remain a New Zealand-centred company.

New chairman Klaus Lutz says Turners & Growers headquarters will remain in Auckland and it will continue to be listed on the New Zealand stock exchange.

Mr Lutz says there are no plans to increase BayWa's 73% stake in the company.

Mr Hipkins is holding a 90-day comprehensive review of the company.

He says that will include cost efficiency, which doesn't always translate to redundancy and may translate to growth and investment.

"That's certainly something that BayWa bring to the table. They have a longer term strategic view - 10, 15, 20 years out and if some of our business units are profitable, why can't we make them more profitable?", Mr Hipkins says.

He believes BayWa's knowledge of European markets will be of interest to Zespri.

Mr Hipkins says Turners & Growers will review where it sources its apples from.

He says the company needs to look at more continuity of supply, as well as looking at risk profiles given what's happened with the Psa disease and kiwifruit.