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Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson:

‘Kiwifruit faces up to challenges’

Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson has issued a statement saying the industry is facing unprecedented challenges because of the lack of people available to work in the sector as a result of the pandemic. Mathieson says the situation is likely to be around for some time and the sector has to think about how else it can make different decisions that free up capacity and jobs that people have been doing but don't need to do in the future.

"That's a decision we are making across the entire supply chain. For example, we are looking at how we can pack our fruit in different ways and times so it makes it easier to go across the supply chain," he told Rural News.

"We are looking at the way we can incentivise our growers on taste and how we can bring fruit forward in the season - so that we can fill that early bit in the year. Our philosophy is to question and challenge decisions to make sure there isn't a better way through this next period when we won't have enough people."

Labour and logistics are by far the biggest challenges facing the kiwifruit industry in the Covid environment. Mathieson says this is the same for the entire primary sector. He says before the Covid outbreak, it was pleasing to see the Government announce that it was going to increase the number of RSE workers from the Pacific Islands allowed into NZ. He adds, if this happens, it will really help.

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