Zespri is trialling its own kiwifruit orchards in Shaanxi province. Orchard manager Bao Liangshuai with Zespri's Shane Max.
▲yellow kiwi planting
Zespri says gold kiwifruit varieties have been grown in China since 2012, in breach of the New Zealand co-operative's plant variety rights.
Police are investigating whether plant material of the varieties Gold3 (Zespri SunGold) and Gold9 (Zespri charm) was sent from New Zealand to China.
▲sungold kiwi growing zone
Zespri marketing manager Dave Courtney said the Tauranga-based co-op was tipped off in April last year about non-Zespri fruit being grown and sold in China and had begun its own investigations.
Gold3, the new gold kiwifruit setting export records.Gold3，新金猕猴桃创出口纪录。
Zespri zealously guards its rights over the varieties, which can take 10 years to develop. It sells licences to growers on a country-by-country basis, which can only be transferred within the same country subject to the rules of each licence.
Kiwifruit growers have recently paid out a median price of up to $200,000 per hectare each for licences to grow the sought-after SunGold variety, mainly in the Bay of Plenty region.
▲Yellow kiwi orchard
The system allows Zespri to earn revenue off the licences, but it also lets it manage production closely, which assists its global marketing.
"Our belief is the plant material came from New Zealand, but we don't know whether it was cuttings or plants.
"We can't speculate on who would have done it and we can't say where the discovery in China was made," Courtney said.
▲New Zealand zespri Kiwifruit
Zespri has been establishing its own trial sites to grow kiwifruit in Shaanxi Province, and a kiwifruit "centre of excellence" is being set up there as well. Shaanxi produces the most kiwifruit in the world, between 40-50 per cent of China's total.
Zespri completed its due diligence in December 2016 and handed evidence to New Zealand police to help with their investigation.Zespri于2016年12月完成了尽职调查，并将证据交给了新西兰警方，以帮助他们进行调查。
Courtney said the area in China planted in the varieties was about 100 ha, but he did not believe that it would have any material impact on the outlook for SunGold. It is the variety which has proved popular with consumers, especially in Asia.
"The volumes are immature, there's no large scale production. We're not aware whether they have been sold using the Zespri labelling."
Kiwifruit growers had been informed on Monday, and were "very supportive" about Zespri's determination to safeguard its plant variety rights.
Zespri chief operating officer Simon Limmer said it was taking "concerted action to protect and control its intellectual property".
"Zespri's plant variety rights are important intellectual property, developed through extensive investment over many years. Although the plantings may be relatively small scale in this specific case, we have zero tolerance for any breaches that we identify, wherever they happen," Limmer said.
Courtney said many years ago the Chinese had grown a previous Zespri-owned gold variety, Hort16A, in breach of plant rights.