New Zealand’s industry body for stone-fruit growers has come out to reassure its international customers of its Covid-free status, after the virus was reportedly found on fruit packaging in China. 

According to Chinese media organisation The Global Times, the virus was found on the inner packaging of imported cherries in the city of Wuxi near Shanghai, and it is still unclear which country the fruits came from.

Richard Palmer, chief executive of NZ company Summerfruit, said the Ministry for Primary Industries had “not been advised by Chinese authorities that this detection is in any way connected with New Zealand fruit”. 

Palmer claims that the stone-fruit industry has rigorous food safety procedures in place, including the monitoring of staff health for Covid-19.

“As NZ officials have not been advised of a Covid-19 detection, and with NZ free of Covid-19 in the community, Summerfruit NZ can only conclude that this apparent case is not related to NZ fruit,” Palmer said.

“The last case of Covid-19 in the NZ community was on November 18, 2020, before the export stone-fruit harvest started.

“With strict food safety and quality process in place, and the country free of Covid-19, New Zealand fruit represents the safest possible source of fresh fruit, a reputation our industry strives to maintain.”

Since the packaging scare came to light, many merchants of imported cherries say demand has plummeted over the mounting concern from consumers.

Generally, most of the cherries sold in China come from Australia and Chile.

According to the Embassy of Chile, around 130 million kilos of cherries have been exported to more than 400 million consumers in China during this season. 

Australia exported around 1,487 tonnes of cherries to China in 2019.

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