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More Than A Million Trays Of Kiwifruit To Be Destroyed After Mice Found

Over a million trays of New Zealand kiwifruit that were onboard a ship with a mice problem will be destroyed.

Mice were found on Zespri's first shipment to Europe for the season last month.

Since then the company has been sorting through the fruit to try and salvage as much as possible.

Chief operating officer Jason Te Brake said Zespri's inspected 2600 (54 percent) of the pallets.

It even sent staff to Belgium to help with the situation and engaged external food safety experts.

"It's become clear that we can't fully mitigate the potential food safety and reputational risk to the brand with enough certainty to release any fruit.

"Reworking this fruit would be a substantial and complex operational undertaking requiring considerable resources and time. Even then, we could not be sufficiently confident we could remove the risk associated with the presence of rodents. Our customers have also been clear they don't want the fruit because of the potential risks associated with it."

Based on this combination of factors, Zespri has decided to dispose of the fruit. It would be turned into biofuel, Te Brake said.

The total value of the fruit plus costs associated with reprocessing and disposal was estimated to be around $34 million

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Te Brake said Zespri continued to engage with it's insurance and shipping partners.

"The value of recovery will not be known until the claims process is complete - a process which will take some time."

Grower group NZKGI chief executive Colin Bond said growers were understandably shocked and disappointed by the loss - but supported the decision to destroy the fruit.

"It's an extremely rare event, so this is the first time in Zespri's brief history that this sort of incident has occurred - we also hope it's the last," Bond said.

"Zespri has been keeping the industry informed, and in our assessment have made the right decisions with that fruit."

There were some financial implications for growers, and Zespri would need to try to recuperate those costs with its insurer, he said.

"We will be encouraging Zespri to make sure they work through the process with the shipping suppliers and insurance companies to try and minimise that financial risk for growers.

"But we are we're under no illusions, so that process is going to take many months."

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