Kiwi production kicks up in Calif.

Bruce Myers poses with a kiwi he cut on the vine at his ranch in Exeter, Calif. Kiwi is expected to expand to about a $23 million crop in California this year. Gary Kazanjian, The Associated Press

Bruce Myers poses with a kiwi he cut on the vine at his ranch in Exeter, Calif. Kiwi is expected to expand to about a $23 million crop in California this year. Gary Kazanjian, The Associated Press

By OLIVIA MUNOZ

The Associated Press

FRESNO, Calif. – The Golden State, known for putting its mark on fruits and vegetables of all kinds, plans to lend its golden touch to kiwifruit, best known as the New Zealand import with a fuzzy, thin skin and a green seed-filled core.

California already leads the nation in domestic kiwi production, but farmers partnering with global growers hope to expand that niche by doubling acreage devoted to a golden-flesh variety marketed for its smooth exterior and nutrient-rich qualities.

“It’s just a good, all-around fruit. It’s nutritious, doesn’t usually need pesticides and tastes good,” said Bruce Myers, a Strathmore farmer, who planted 20 acres last year after packing kiwi for fellow California growers for more than two decades.

Although California remains a minor player in the global kiwi market compared to New Zealand, Italy and China, the fruit is expected to be about a $23 million crop in California this year, up from about $18 million in 2002, said Marilyn Kinoshita, deputy agriculture commissioner for Tulare County.

“It’s costly for a lot of farmers, but it sells well. It’s a good diversification crop,” Kinoshita said.

Kiwi costs growers about $10 dollars per vine versus about $3 for tree fruit, said Myers, a third-generation farmer in Strathmore. Plus, there is the cost of setting up irrigation systems and other infrastructure, he said.

The main variety sold and grown in California – and throughout the world – remains the tangy green kiwi with the fuzzy brown skin. But another variety of kiwi, the Zespri Gold, has increased in popularity. State production of this new fruit, has already doubled since the first harvest about five years ago.