French authorities uncover illegal kiwifruit scam worth $9.8 million
The French Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control says more than 12 percent of kiwis sold were wrongly labelled across a three-year period.
Seven suppliers are facing charges for the illicit profits made.
The combined lower production and labour costs of Italian kiwifruit and the higher selling price of French kiwis netted the fraudsters an estimated €6m from 15,000 tonnes of kiwifruit.
The difference between selling Italian and French kiwifruit is reportedly €0.30 per fruit, but that price can skyrocket at the end of the season in March.
The scam, which has been dubbed "Kiwigate" by French media, first raised suspicions when local growers noticed a spike in fruit marked as "French origin" being sold out of season.
The offending suppliers face potential prison time and a €300,000 fine if convicted.
In France, 1,200 growers produce around 55,000 tonnes of kiwifruit a year, mostly in the south west regions.
Neighbouring Italian growers can produce around 400,000 tonnes.
Kiwifruit is among the top 10 fruits in France, with an average of 2.8 kgs consumed per person every year. ■