Tuesday , September 28 2021

High stakes in big kiwifruit are smuggling lawsuit

This story was originally published on Newsroom.co.nz and is republished with permission.

One of the biggest exporters, Zespri, wants to pay for someone smuggling New Zealand's biggest markets, China, and allows them to be produced commercially.

In a $ 30 million High Court action, it has a lot of spirits, which is a plant that has been used, or a Chinese grower who has used them in four orchards covering 167 hectares – and has the potential to sell plants across China, cutting into future Zespri sales opportunities.

The identities of Zespri's targets are still suppressed but the extent of Zespri's hunt for a culprit after learning of the big breach in early 2016 became clear at the court yesterday.

* Zespri seeks $ 70m damages against people who allegedly sent gold kiwifruit plants to China
* No criminal action open to Zespri against people who sent kiwifruit plants to China
* Unified approach by Zespri needed for success in Chinese marketplace

It involved the 'private eyes' from Hong Kong on the trail in China, the airport security and the Ministry of Primary Industries' police search warrant and the discovery of the police search warrant. through the court action of defendants' bank account records and searches of one's activities on WeChat's Chinese social media site.

Zespri staff in China heard that someone was growing the G3 and G9 strains of gold kiwifruit, a New Zealand invention, and alerted head office. Within months, the company investigators visited different languages ​​of China, speaking to Communist local secretaries and eventually to the man who ran the operations.

He allegedly told me that he had a legitimate contract with a New Zealand supplier and not only the G3 and G9 but also the goldmine for Zespri. He said he would show them the written contract, supposedly valued at 10 million Chinese renminbi, but thus legitimized his ability to sell the gold fruit. Zespri investigators later did so, taking 50 cartons of the fruit back to a storage facility in Shanghai.

Zespri wants compensation for its prized gold kiwifruit plants being smuggled to China.


Zespri wants compensation for its prized gold kiwifruit plants being smuggled to China.

The court heard the man told Zespri he dealt with a man called "Geoff" who freighted him the buds for the plants by ship.

The Zespri and the G9 offspring.

The New Zealanders have been working on a number of New Zealand-based licensees from a picture he posted on the group, trying to prove his growing interest in "disease-free seedlings" – words alleged to mean the G3 plants which are resistant to the PSA disease.

After alerting the Ministry of Primary Industries and the police, the search warrant was obtained for his rural business and premises. It was alleged in court by Zespri manager, that "unknown brown powdery substance" was found with plant grafting tools in the man's possession.

Zespri's filed a criminal complaint with the police in no charge was eventually brought against two individuals and company defending the civil case. The action asks Justice Sarah Katz for injunction and award of around $ 30 million for intellectual property rights under the Plant Varieties Rights Act.

The Zespri lawyer, Laura O'Gorman, said the New Zealand-based man has been purported to grant his Chinese purchaser a license to the G3 and G9 kiwifruit varieties "for the entirety of China. The written contract licenses [the China-based grower] for any time in the future to plant G3 and G9 anywhere in China.

"What has been planted so far is not necessarily the end of the consequences for Zespri."

(The company's annual report shows China overtook Japan this year as Zespri's highest value export market, at $ 504 million.)

O'Gorman said the calculation of the $ 30 million damages used the 2016 price for the gold kiwifruit was multiplied by the number of hectares of land at the China orchards. "The claims are relatively conservative."

Zespri's head of grower services, Tracy McCarthy told the court China was "very significant in Zespri's own growth plans". One of the defendants had traveled to China and would not explain to Zespri what he had been doing regarding Kiwifruit or be interviewed by the police.

Eugene St John, McCarthy's agreed new varieties of kiwifruit were not unique to Zespri. She accepted that one of the defendants might be involved in an orchard in China.

St John said the China-based salesman had asked him to travel to New Zealand in the past, as had employees of the organization with which he was involved and he had put it to McCarthy. of the G3 and G9 plants. "It could be," she answered.

The highly successful SunGold Kiwifruit variety was developed by Zespri and Plant & Food Research.


The highly successful SunGold Kiwifruit variety was developed by Zespri and Plant & Food Research.

His client would say that money was paid to the entities in China, that the payment was from one person was being reimbursed and that the joint venture company had been agreed. "[He] will give evidence to say in the history of history that has only been discussed providing techniques that he had learned from New Zealand and there were never any discussions about him providing any New Zealand variety to China. "

Zespri's global production manager, Shane Max, said that the NZ grower number was posted on WeChat in China belonged to the two defendants. He said one had deleted his story, but after Zespri had located the photo.

When the China-based company had questioned his orchards, he confirmed that he had planted G3 and G9 kiwifruit and believed they would sell for a double price in China than existing gold fruit. The biggest facility, in Wuhan, was around 120 hectares, with many of the vines under glasshouses.

"He had a licensing contract and paid 10 million renminbi and he could sub-license the rights under that contract."

Zespri has considered reaching a commercial resolution with the but concluded he offered nothing special and "considered himself more capable and knowledgeable than he was".

This story was originally published on Newsroom.co.nz and is republished with permission.

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