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Possible PSA outbreak in Victorian orchard

Seeka, New Zealand’s biggest kiwifruit grower, says it may have found the fruit disease PSA in an orchard it is developing in Australia.

It has notified Agriculture Victoria of unusual bacterial symptoms and is removing suspicious plant material pending further test results.

While the presence of the disease has not been confirmed, the symptoms are consistent with PSA, Seeka said. The affected plants are in a non-producing part of the orchard at Shepparton.

“As part of our preventative measures, Seeka has removed the grafted canopy from 4.5 hectares of the two-year-old vines, with the remainder under watch.

“The Hayward variety in production does not appear to be affected and our experience in New Zealand is that Hayward can tolerate PSA.” 

PSA, found in New Zealand in 2010, is estimated to have infected 80 percent of the country’s kiwifruit orchards nationwide and cost the industry up to $1 billion in lost exports.

Seeka shares fell 10 cents to $6. They are down about 8 percent this year.

Australia, where Seeka also grows nashi and pears, contributed about 9 percent of the firm’s $29.4 million of operating earnings in the six months ended June 30. The company is planning significant expansion there from 2021.

The Te Puke-based company said it doesn’t expect any material financial impact on the current year’s business and left guidance unchanged. It previously forecast full-year net profit of $6.5 million to $7.2 million, an increase of at least 12 percent.

Seeka has about 250 hectares of orchards in Australia. About 154 hectares of that is in kiwifruit, of which 93 hectares are the green Hayward variety and in production. The remaining 61 hectares are in development, with 47 hectares planted in root stock and ungrafted, and 14 hectares grafted two years ago.

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