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Wednesday, 30 March 2022 11:55

Local kiwifruit pickers needed

Written by  Leo Argent
NZ’s kiwifruit industry requires 24,000 seasonal workers for picking and packing roles. NZ’s kiwifruit industry requires 24,000 seasonal workers for picking and packing roles.

New Zealand's borders are opening again and kiwifruit grower organisation NZKGI wants backpackers coming into the country to help with this year's harvest.

From 12 April, those with temporary work visas and 5,000 international students will be able to travel to New Zealand - assuming they are fully vaccinated - just in time for the beginning of kiwifruit harvest.

NZ's kiwifruit industry requires 24,000 seasonal workers for picking and packing roles. Backpackers traditionally make up around one-quarter of the workforce. This year a record crop of over 190 million trays are forecast to be picked. Before Covid, working holidaymakers accounted for 50,000 of the country's annual international visitors.

In comparison, 2019 saw a record tray count of 147 million, up to 157 million in 2020 and a significant boost of 181.5 million in 2021. According to a Rabobank report, by 2028 NZ's kiwifruit production could reach 300 million trays, with 230 million being a minimum.

As the country's kiwifruit production continues to grow so rapidly, more pickers will be needed to harvest the fruit. Typically, the NZ kiwifruit picking season runs from March until August - with peak harvest from May to July.

NZKGI chief Colin Bond is also encouraging local people to roll up their sleeves.

"Picking (kiwifruit) is a great opportunity for those who like to be in the outdoors, while the packhouse is suited to those who like to have fun in larger teams indoors."

He says with orchards running from the tip of the North Island all the way down the country to the top of the South Island, kiwifruit picking makes a great opportunity for those who want to work and travel.

It is also a fairly lucrative job; almost all NZKGI affiliated packhouses are paying at least $22.75 an hour, while kiwifruit picking is expected to exceed the living wage of $27/hour.

Bond says at a time when cost of living is going up and international travel seems untenable to many, this is a strong incentive for locals to work in orchards.

In 2021, the kiwifruit sector was worth $3.96 billion against NZ's total GDP of $314,929 billion - or roughly 1.26% of the country's economy; the largest horticultural earner and rivalling many other primary sectors.

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