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Kiwi harvest under way

The kiwifruit harvest has begun in Gisborne and the Bay of Plenty and the season forecast points to another very large crop with about 155 million trays of green and gold kiwifruit expected to be picked in orchards and packed in packhouses across New Zealand from Northland to Motueka.

This year's crop has been forecast to be well up from the 147 million trays exported in 2019.

Predominantly, the gold variety gets picked first, followed by green in late March. The last fruit is picked in June.

Alongside the picking of green and gold kiwifruit, Zespri red kiwifruit will also be picked as a commercial variety. The sweet, berry-tinged kiwifruit will be destined for markets in Japan and Singapore as well as supermarket shelves in New Zealand.

Nikki Johnson, CEO of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. (NZKGI), said that consumers should expect the fruit to taste great. However, there are some potential hurdles around dry weather, coronavirus and seasonal labour availability.

“As the kiwifruit is packed, we will start to have a clearer picture of the impact of this years' hot, dry weather which may be influential,” Nikki said.

In addition to the dry weather, this season also has an emphasis on being well prepared for potential disruption from coronavirus.

“As we are working with a food crop, the industry already has strong processes in place around food safety and personal hygiene and these will continue to be important.

“The industry is working together to plan and mitigate disruption and will be following public health recommendations”, she said.

Based on the forecast volume and spread of the harvest season, it is currently forecast that around 20,000 workers will be required throughout the harvest period.

However, Nikki said it will become clearer if there are sufficient workers as the industry gets closer to the peak of harvest and the requirement for significantly more seasonal workers increases.

NZKGI has taken proactive steps to mitigate the likely labour risk and will be communicating on the steps which will be taken over the coming weeks.

In addition, NZKGI has been in conversations with forestry organisations to ascertain if there is the ability to provide opportunities to forestry employees while there is a lull in wood exports.

Zespri Chief Grower and Alliances Officer Dave Courtney said Zespri was expecting another great tasting crop with more gold than green kiwifruit.

“This year we are again expecting to have more gold than green kiwifruit, and of course we will be bringing an increasing amount of Zespri red kiwifruit to market following last year's limited release.

“We are also excited to introduce our new brand to consumers and progressively roll this out to markets across the year,” Mr Courtney said.

New Zealand's kiwifruit industry contributed $1.82 billion to kiwifruit growing regions in 2018.

KIWI HARVEST: The national kiwifruit harvest has started in Gisborne and the Bay of Plenty and all signs point to another big crop that should produce a sizeable increase in the number of trays of 'kiwis' exported this season. Workers Raymond Miriorangi (left) and Raymond Beach were pictured at work in a block at Makauri. Picture by Liam Clayton