Kiwifruit growers are mulling over a radical plan by Zespri to try to halt the explosion of its illegally grown SunGold brand in China. Rogue Chinese growers are already producing around $1 billion worth of the prized SunGold without permission. Growers here say Zespri has not only lost the intellectual property, but control of the variety in China. Zespri’s solution is to put its sticker on the counterfeit fruit in a controlled commercial trial, giving advice to the Chinese growers who are producing the illicit fruit. Zespri’s chief growing officer Carol Ward says the strategy is aimed at managing the spread of the variety. Sun Gold growers in New Zealand will vote on the plan in June. SunGold was rolled out after the vine disease Psa wiped out nearly half the country’s kiwifruit orchards in 2010 and is now sold in more than 54 countries. A couple stole the plant material in New Zealand and took it back to China and the High Court here awarded almost $15 million in damages to Zespri. Meanwhile, at least 5,500 hectares of SunGold is now planted illegally in China, just short of the 6,500 hectares planted here.