This year’s kiwifruit harvest is underway and it’s forecasted to be a record breaker that surpasses last year’s 157 million trays of kiwifruit.
That means up to 23,000 seasonal workers will be at orchards and pack houses during the season’s peak this month.
“Growers and the wider kiwifruit industry are working hard to make sure consumers across the world can enjoy fresh, healthy fruit like our kiwifruit once harvest begins,” says Zespri’s chief grower, industry and sustainability officer Carol Ward.
“We’re encouraged by the strong demand we’re seeing for our fruit, and we’ll continue to closely monitor the Covid-19 environment and its impacts both in New Zealand and abroad as we begin shipping this year’s crop.”
More fruit, less workers
The make-up of kiwifruit harvest workers will be different to previous seasons.
Usually, around 50 per cent of kiwifruit harvest workers are Kiwi, 25 per cent RSEs and 25 per cent backpackers.
The kiwifruit industry continues to negotiate with the Government to increase the allowed 2000 RSE workers. In normal circumstances, about 14,000 RSE workers come to New Zealand for harvest.
Whether government schemes and organisations’ recruitment campaigns will be enough to fill the shortage is yet to be seen.
NZKGI chief executive Nikki Johnson says the lead up to harvest has been a mixed bag for growers.
“This year has been devastating for a small number of growers whose crops in Motueka and other isolated areas who were hit by hail.
“On the other hand, the season is shaping up to produce high quality kiwifruit which means consumers can anticipate a great tasting product coming to supermarket shelves.”
In addition to the Green and Gold kiwifruit, consumers can look forward to Zespri’s sweet, berry-tinged tasting Red kiwifruit which will be picked for supermarket shelves in New Zealand and some overseas markets this year.
The kiwifruit industry is an important player for communities across New Zealand, contributing almost $2bn in 2020.
This includes $417million in Te Puke, $219 million in Tauranga, $209 million in Katikati and $66 million in the Waikato.
NZKGI says almost all packhouses have told them they will be paying at least the living wage of $22.10 per hour.
Kiwifruit picking is also expected to exceed the living wage with an average of $24 per hour paid last year when the minimum wage was $18.90 per hour.
Information on job opportunities can be found on the NZKGI website or on the Facebook page Kiwifruit JobsNZ.