Publicity on a labour shortage in the kiwifruit industry last season had an interesting side effect: it attracted people to come and work in the industry, says New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers (NZKGI) chief executive Nikki Johnson.
In 2018, the Bay of Plenty kiwifruit industry at harvest time had 1200 vacancies it was unable to fill.
The labour coordinator will aim to attract extra workers and increase the coordination of available labour for harvest and winter pruning.
The coordinator will also maintain sustainable labour sources to support the growth of the industry in Bay of Plenty where at least 80% of kiwifruit is grown. New Zealanders will be given priority to work, particularly people from Work and Income.
The labour coordinator role will be funded by the Provincial Growth Fund, the Ministry of Social Development and New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers and is expected to run through until the end of 2020.
“Ensuring a sustainable supply of labour is the kiwifruit industry’s top priority. The growing appetite for our fruit means we need more people to pick, pack and prune,” NZKGI chief executive Nikki Johnson says. “Luckily Bay of Plenty has beautiful beaches and is an attractive area to come to work.”
The kiwifruit industry has also recently set out to attract more pickers and packers to work in Bay of Plenty between April and June.
Its campaign targest backpackers, retirees, students and unemployed; it is sending articles aimed at backpackers to European media. The campaign is supported by kiwifruit industry stakeholders under the BOP Labour Governance Group.
“NZ kiwifruit production will increase from 123 million trays in 2017 to 190 million trays by 2027. To meet this demand the industry will need at least 7000 extra seasonal workers over the next 10 years”, says Johnson.
The increased labour demand stems from industry expansion coupled with low unemployment and a lack of backpackers and international students.
NZKGI is also working to improve the consistency of seasonal work, accommodation, welfare, transport and perceptions of pay rates.