19 Aug 2014

Eastpack head confident of kiwifruit recovery

4:08 pm on 19 August 2014

A long serving kiwifruit industry figure is confident that the sector is well on the road to recovery from the PSA crisis.

EastPack chief executive Tony Hawken.

EastPack chief executive Tony Hawken. Photo: SUPPLIED

Eastpack chief executive, Tony Hawken is stepping down at the end of this year after more than 30 years heading the country's largest kiwifruit packing and coolstore provider.

He said it was the right time for a change, after the turbulent times the industry and the company have been through with PSA and conditions were looking a lot more stable now with the recovery led by the new G3 or Sun Gold variety.

"Well actually I've just come from a trip to Asia with some of my directors and fellow staff members, and the response to the kiwifruit product throughout Asia is extremely positive. The transition from the Hort 16A gold variety to the G3 gold variety has been really well accepted by all Zespri's customers that we spoke to. So that puts the whole industry in a pretty good position, going forward."

Mr Hawken expects to see the kiwifruit industry growing again, but not straight away.

"In the short medium term, the industry's going to have to get its head around how we're going to harvest, pack and cool-store, and sell the volumes that are coming on with G3, because this variety does look like being pretty productive and at the same time giving a good result for our consumers. So I think the hand brake will be on for a little while, but I think you'll see it continue to grow in the longer term, no question in my mind, but you're talking five to 10 years, there."

While he's hanging up his CEO hat, Tony Hawken will continue on a part time basis with Eastpack to help with special projects including a large capital development programme.