Some relief to this harvest’s lack of workers has come in the form of visitors to New Zealand applying to vary conditions of their visitor visas to work in the Bay of Plenty and in Hawke’s Bay, which both have declared labour shortages for harvesting fruit.
The BOP labour shortage declaration began April 15 and runs to May 27. By April 16 – the start of the BOP kiwifruit harvest’s peak – New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated confirmed around 250 people had been accepted for a Variation Of Conditions to their visitor visas and it expected a sharper increase in applications in following weeks.
In 2018, around 230 people successfully applied for a VOC in the BOP during the declaration period.
NZKGI CEO Nikki Johnson says more than 18,000 seasonal workers would be required to pick and pack the iconic fruit – with 2019’s peak harvest to last until the end of May.
“While we’re pleased our attraction campaign has increased the number of visitors who’ve shown interest to work in the kiwifruit industry, we’re likely to require more workers to pick and pack at season peak.
“As a first priority, we’re calling on people who live in close proximity to orchards and packhouses to roll up their sleeves and join us in this booming industry.”
Those from further afield are recommended to secure accommodation before arriving.
Current estimates put the potential labour shortfall at peak around 3550 in the BOP’s kiwifruit industry. Last harvest had a shortfall of 1200 vacancies at harvest peak.
Nikki says the shortage places the current workforce under pressure to pick and pack this year’s estimated volume of more than 155 million trays – at mid-April about one-quarter had been picked and packed.
Potential employees who’d like to find work in the kiwifruit industry can find information on employers, job types and rights at: www.nzkgi.org.nz
Overseas visitors are encouraged to visit the Immigration NZ website where detailed information about varying the conditions of a visa can be found.