Print this page
Tuesday, 13 July 2021 14:55

No workers, no growth!

Written by  Peter Burke
Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson. Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson.

Zespri chief executive Dan Mathieson says unless the kiwifruit industry gets more people to work in the sector, it may have to look at slowing down its speed of growth.

Matthieson told Hort News the biggest challenge for the industry is getting a good and consistent supply of people coming through the sector. Those who can help pick the fruit - as well as prepare the orchards for the next season's crop. He adds the sector also want people to work through the post-harvest facilities to ensure that fruit is being managed well, to get it to market in the best condition.

Mathieson says New Zealanders currently make up about 55% of the kiwifruit sector's workforce, while backpackers make up about 25% and RSE workers around 15%.

"We have a good mix, but we are certainly looking for more to supplement the migrant workers and the backpackers," he told Hort News.

"Normally, we would have about 400,000 backpackers in NZ, but that number is down to about 7,000. More of those are going home because of continued border restrictions - so we need more people to replace them."

Matthieson says labour shortage are right across the primary sector, all of which are working with the Government to look at more options to resolve the workforce problem.

"Covid is an incredibly challenging situation and I think what we need to see is more Kiwis getting vaccinated," he adds. "Once we have got the NZ population safe through vaccination, we will be looking at the relationship with the Pacific Islands to increase the amount of RSEs we need to help in the kiwifruit industry.

"We know that in the islands there is some resistance at the moment, until there are good levels of vaccination to allow many of their people to come into NZ."

However, Mathieson hopes that when those vaccines are rolled out in the Pacific Islands and in NZ, the situation will change and we see a return of both the migrant workers groups and also the backpackers.

More like this

Zespri adapts to labour shortages

Zespri is ringing in major changes in its systems to deal with an expected shortfall of 6500 workers to pick this season's kiwifruit crop.

It's now RubyRed!

It's official, Zespri has confirmed that its current red kiwifruit will be named Zespri RubyRed Kiwifruit for the first year of sales of commercial volumes in the upcoming 2022 season.

Zespri celebrates in style

The contribution of NZ's kiwifruit industry came in for some high praise at a special function at Parliament, just before the latest Covid lockdowns.


High jump for Hi-Cane?

A Northland grower wants the horticulture sector to show stronger leadership in opposing a proposal to ban the chemical Hi-Cane.

The valley of asparagus

Driving up state highway 1 through the central North Island on your way to Mt Ruapehu, you will pass through…

Labour the no. 1 issue

Labour issues will be the top priority for HortNZ chief executive Nadine Tunley in the coming year, with environmental issues…

Machinery & Products

Smart way to bumper crops

With kiwifruit being the "go to" good food of the 21st century, it was inevitable that orchard prices would skyrocket.