New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) Chief Executive Officer Nikki Johnson says Poverty Bay leads the charge because the crop matures more quickly there than the rest of the country. “Over March, orchards in the Bay of Plenty, Northland, Counties-Manukau, Waikato, Hawke’s Bay, the lower North Island and Tasman will follow suit – it’s going to be a bumper crop.”
The first run of kiwifruit is predominantly the gold variety, with the green kiwifruit harvest coming into full force in late March. The last fruit is picked in June.
Zespri Chief Grower & Alliances Officer Dave Courtney says the first fruit picking is an exciting time for the industry – “We always look forward to the start of harvest. And this year, we’re expecting a fantastic crop of great-tasting fruit to provide to Zespri consumers around the world.”
Ms Johnson says it’s not clear yet if there will be a labour shortage in the sector, a risk the NZKGI has sought to proactively mitigate through a programme of outreach and promotion to potential labour sources over the first quarter of 2019. “We’ve gone all-out to tell our potential workers about the roles, pay and other important information – and dispel some of the myths about the work.
“We’ll soon know if it’s had an impact, when the major picking starts, and we’ll be doing contingency planning if we do have an issue in a month’s time.”
Ms Johnson says the industry will require around 18,000 workers through the harvest period, with the recruitment campaign targeting kiwis including student and retirees and backpackers.
EastPack Ltd was among a number of growers picking early fruit this year. Chief Executive Officer Hamish Simson says the company was expecting the season to start earlier than usual. “We’ve already packed fruit at our Edgecumbe and Opotiki sites and expect our other four sites to be in full swing by next week.
“Labour supply is well and truly on our radar and the team have run a comprehensive programme to make sure we provide people with an awesome experience working in the kiwifruit industry”.
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