Kiwifruit sector front-foots campaign to find pickers

The kiwifruit industry has launched a major recruitment campaign to make sure this year's harvest, which starts mid-March, isn't short of workers.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) Chief Executive Officer Nikki Johnson said the amount of green and gold kiwifruit on the vines is forecast to be even higher than last year's harvest, meaning around 18,000 workers will be needed. 

"Last year, the harvest was at least 1,200 workers short at the peak - we don't want a repeat of that," she said.

To promote seasonal jobs in kiwifruit, NZKGI is running a broad labour recruitment campaign, targeting local students, unemployed Kiwis, retirees and backpackers, to show them what the industry can offer and address any misconceptions about the work.

"While we want to employ local kiwis as a first priority, we're casting the net far and wide to attract as many seasonal workers as possible," said Ms Johnson.

"There is a workforce out there that we think would be great in our industry, we just have to tell them about it and let them know what's in it for them."

The campaign will promote kiwifruit work opportunities through a major social media campaign to reach potential workers, using Facebook to connect with job-seekers through the recently launched Kiwifruit Jobs NZ page. 

"We'll also be sharing great content with potential employees, including a video of German and Czech backpackers sharing their orchard experiences, and a short but fact-packed guide to working in the sector - the Little Green and Gold Book."

She said the industry needs large numbers of workers over a relatively short timeframe from late March through June for harvesting fruit.

"But there's also a large number of workers needed in the packhouses in a wide range of processing roles, as the fruit leaves the orchards to be prepared for distribution overseas."

Ms Johnson said that a lot of incorrect information exists about working with kiwifruit making it harder to recruit people who would otherwise get a lot out of seasonal work.

"That includes the pay rates - they are actually very competitive. We will highlight the facts about kiwifruit work through our campaign to rectify myths.

We'll be emphasising the long-term and permanent career roles available, as well  kiwifruit seasonal work spans up to 48 weeks in the year."

NZKGI is also keen so see more Kiwis working in the industry, and the campaign appeals to Kiwis to support the sector which is a major contributor to the New Zealand economy. 

"By 2027 we're expecting to require around 22,000 workers, as the volume of fruit grown increases dramatically.

We'd love to see strong support from New Zealanders, this year and into the future so this valuable export product continues to shine as a small part of New Zealand in premium export markets."