Responding to criticism and government claims that its proposed levy to pay off outstanding debts is an unpopular move, apple and pear marketer Enza has revealed the results of an internal poll to prove that it has the support of nearly 70% of its growers.

Enza, which is set to renounce its practical monopoly on apple and pear exporting on 1 October, revealed that its fruit growers could expect to pick up the tab for its NZ$54 m (US$22m) foreign exchange losses. Payment options involved paying a NZ$4.5 levy on every carton produced this year, or growers may find themselves paying a NZ80c levy on every carton produced over the next five seasons.

A poll of 659 growers conducted by Enza showed that 69% supported the levy paid over five seasons, while 13% supported paying up this year.

The survey has already been criticised because it did not include the option of sharing the costs with Enza’s major corporate shareholders the Guinness Peat Group and investment bank FR Partners Ltd, which each hold a 19.9% stake. Company chairman Tony Gibbs, who also runs the Peat Group, maintained however: “Obviously that was intentional. Losses arising from foreign exchange cover taken out some time ago to protect grower returns are clearly a grower loss.”

Agriculture minister Jim Sutton stressed yesterday that it is unlikely that Enza’s levy will be supported by the government, because of a perceived lack of grower support.