Despite experiencing the PSA outbreak first-hand growing up, Animal and Plant Health scholarship winner Sarah Wilson says deciding to study agribusiness was the best decision she could make.
This year was expected to yield a record-breaking copy of at least 190 million trays of New Zealand's largest horticultural produce, overtaing last year's record of over 177 million trays. However, revisions to the forecast indicate that this year's volume will be below 2021, with NZKGI attributing the reduction to tight labour supply, crop loading and weather.
This was also the first season that Zespri's new RubyRed kiwifruit was picked as a commercial variety for supermarket shelves in local and overseas markets. The 24,000 seasonal workers required to pick and pack the crop were restricted due to Covid-19 infection rates and closed borders, which limited the 6,500 backpackers traditionally utilised for harvest operations.
Despite this labour uncertainty, all growers had the opportunity to have their kiwifruit picked and packed, thanks to effective operation of supply chains under changing Covid-19 settings; NZKGI chief executive Colin Bond chalked this up to lessons from the previous two seasons that helped streamline processes across supply chains.
"I would like to make special mention of the RSE workers from the Pacific Islands who stepped up under extraordinary circumstances to fill roles where New Zealand could not be found," says Bond. "Getting all the fruit off the vines would have been unlikely without them. Our industry plays a critical role in employing permanent and seasonal workers, as well as supporting local businesses associated with the industry across New Zealand."
To attract seasonal workers to pick and pack in the harvest, Bond says NZKGI implemented the fourth year of its campaign to advertise seasonal jobs to New Zealanders. This used a diverse range of mediums to promote roles, as well as information on what to expect about working in the industry.
Kiwifruit picking jobs were expected to exceed the living wage with an average of $27 per hour paid last year when the minimum wage was $20 per hour.
The kiwifruit industry is an important player for communities across New Zealand, contributing
$2.2bn in 2021.