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Penalties ‘may not be tough enough'
Posted at 6:47am Friday 22 Sep, 2017 | By Elaine Fisher firstname.lastname@example.org
Penalties imposed against the grower who allegedly provided bud wood from two new Zespri kiwifruit varieties to Chinese orchards may not be tough enough, says Doug Brown, chairman of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc.
Zespri has terminated the grower’s licence and will remove all SunGold plant material from their orchard; moves which will result in losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars now and into the future.
“The penalties are tough and financially significant. They will be very costly for the grower, given that Zespri is predicting an average orchard gate return of $100,000 a hectare.”
If the grower remains in the industry the only option is to grow green kiwifruit, which returns a lower OGR than new varieties.
“If the actions as alleged are proven to be true, then perhaps the penalties are not tough enough,” Doug says.
Despite the fact Zespri has taken action against a grower, no criminal charges have been made and police and Zespri are calling for the public’s help in providing information which could lead to a prosecution.
This follows the discovery last year that Zespri’s gold kiwifruit varietiesGold3 (Zespri SunGold) and Gold9 (Zespri Charm)were growing in China and the company contacted New Zealand police regarding a possible breach of Zespri’s plant variety rights.
Doug says if the alleged case should it be proven, it’s unacceptable for a grower to break the plant variety rights.
“I am personally deeply disappointed and totally back Zespri to enforce the licence penalty provisions to nth degree. If proven, the actions of the grower have put at risk not only the New Zealand kiwifruit industry but NZ Inc as well as the kiwifruit industry contributes substantially to the New Zealand economy.”
The whole point, says Doug, in Zespri and the industry investing heavily in taking out plant variety rights (known as PVR) is to protect the investment in intellectual property and market advantages the varieties offer all growers.
“In 2016 Zespri spent $13 million in innovation plus another $13 million on new cultivars – which reflects the large investment the industry is making to keep producing the best fruit.
“Enforcement must be carried out. We have enough issues without shooting ourselves in the foot. We have to protect our intellectual property.
“The strength of the NZ kiwifruit industry is in our unity and having the best fruit varieties and best quality. If a grower has put that at risk it is very disappointing.
“The industry spends millions each year to bring growers an economic advantage – providing bud wood to someone else defies logic.”
No amount of money to an individual grower can come near what the industry as a whole could lose through new varieties being grown illegally overseas.
Doug says there is no lack of understating as to what growers’ obligations are under the licence agreement. The contract growers sign to grow new varieties is comprehensive and unambiguous in setting out the rights and obligations of growers.
While New Zealand’s border bio-security scrutiny for goods coming into the country is strict, Doug says he’s now not so sure about over sight of what goes out. “Obviously it’s easier to get plant material out than we would have thought.”