Heavy fine and condemnation for falsifying export documents

30 January 2015

The New Zealand pipfruit industry has backed the prosecution of an apple packhouse which has been fined $40,000 for falsifying export documents.

Matipou Orchard Limited, Hawke’s Bay, was fined by Hastings District Court after providing fraudulent documents which led to non-complying apples being exported to Taiwan between 2009 and 2011 ‘for financial gain’.

The company had claimed that the apples exported to Taiwan were sourced from orchards which were part of an official assurance programme.

Matipou Orchard Limited pleaded guilty to ten charges from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), previously New Zealand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and was no longer approved by MPI to hold a registration to export apples to Taiwan.

The MPI withdrew charges against the orchard’s general manager William Thow, who faced a maximum penalty of seven years' jail if convicted. Charges against Thow and the company were originally made in March 2013, following an extensive investigation into Matipou’s operations.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries had previously revoked the group’s approval to inspect and clear apples for export from their Twyford packhouse.

Under New Zealand law, it is the responsibility of growers and packers to ensure apples meet Taiwan’s stringent suitability standards, which includes that fruit must meet specific plant pest spray regimes.

Commenting on the case, Pipfruit New Zealand chief executive, Allan Pollard, said the country's certification programmes had to be upheld because they allowed access into premium markets.

He said: "MPI negotiates what are sometimes very difficult and complex market access programmes because our industry can give confidence to the importing country about the quality and integrity of our product.

"It takes something like this to put the whole thing at risk. The MPI works very hard on our behalf to ensure we have very strong relationships so, when something like this does happen, we can deal with it in a very rational way."

The Matipou Group, is a fourth generation family-owned and operated fruit growing and packing company which formed ‘Matipou Exports Ltd’ after the deregulation of the New Zealand apple industry in October 2001.

Matipou Exports was incorporated in 2002 to market apples for the parent company Matipou together with fruit supplied from its packhouse and other growers and packers

The Matipou group grows a large proportion of the fruit marketed and exported by ‘Matipou Exports Ltd’. Additional quantities are sourced from its dedicated ‘grower base’ throughout the Hawke’s Bay district and processed through the Matipou Packhouse.

Matipou Exports Limited markets apples varieties including Royal Gala, Braeburn,
 Premium Gala,
 NZ Rose,
 NZ Queen,
 Granny Smith.

The company exports fruit from New Zealand, for about eight months each year, and has its own controlled atmosphere (C.A) coolstore to extend its selling season.

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