Golden kiwi - Bumper kiwifruit crop expected

Harvest to yield 150 million trays nationwide; 3.5m in Gisborne

Harvest to yield 150 million trays nationwide; 3.5m in Gisborne

The annual kiwifruit harvest has started in the district and the signs are promising for a successful season. NZ Fruits managing director David Fox inspects the golden variety of the fruit at the new packing plant at its Lytton Road base. Picture by Paul Rickard

THE gold/green rush has started.

The annual kiwifruit harvest is under way and Gisborne is again leading the charge in an industry set to generate 150 million trays nationwide this season.

Harvesting of Gisborne’s crop started last Thursday and around 3.5 million trays are expected to be filled — about 12,000 tonnes of kiwifruit.

That figure is up about 20 percent on the crop last year.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) chief executive officer Nikki Johnson said Gisborne led the harvest nationally because the crop matured more quickly here than the rest of the country.

“Over March, orchards in the Bay of Plenty, Northland, Counties-Manukau, Waikato, Hawke’s Bay, the lower North Island and Tasman will follow suit,” she said. “It’s going to be a bumper crop.

“The first run of kiwifruit will predominantly be the gold variety, with the green kiwifruit harvest coming into full force in late March.”

Bill Thorpe, of NZ Fruits, said the crop quality here looked promising.

“We have been finding very good average-sized fruit and clean quality.”

NZ Fruits has invested significant capital in a new packing plant at its Lytton Road base.

“We have made the investment to accommodate the expanding crop in this district, which has been expanding progressively each year for several years,” Mr Thorpe said.

“There have been significant new plantings by our growers in response to a demonstrated increase in export demand.”

Mr Thorpe said the labour supply for the harvest here had been “tight”.

Workers were needed for multiple horticulture crops being harvested and processed here.

NZ Fruits went from a permanent workforce of 60 to around 260 during the harvest and finding additional appropriate labour was a challenge, he said.

The first shipment of Gisborne kiwifruit out of Eastland Port is scheduled for late next week.

“We expect a minimum of four, possibly five, shipments between now and May.”

The last of the Gisborne fruit will be picked by the end of April.

Zespri chief grower and alliances officer Dave Courtney said the first fruit picking was an exciting time.

“This year, we’re expecting a fantastic crop of great-tasting fruit to provide to Zespri consumers around the world.”

Ms Johnson said it was not clear yet if there would be a labour shortage nationally in the sector — a risk the NZKGI had sought to proactively mitigate through a programme of outreach and promotion to potential labour sources over the first quarter of 2019.

“We’ve gone all-out to tell our potential workers about the roles, pay and other important information, and dispel some of the myths about the work.

“We’ll soon know if it’s had an impact when the major picking starts. We’ll be doing contingency planning if we do have an issue in a month’s time.”

Ms Johnson said the industry required around 18,000 workers nationally through the harvest period. The recruitment campaign targeted Kiwis, including student and retirees, and backpackers.

EastPack Limited in the eastern Bay of Plenty is also picking early fruit this year.

Chief executive officer Hamish Simson said the company had already packed fruit at its Edgecumbe and Opotiki sites, and expected its other four sites to be in full swing by next week.

THE gold/green rush has started.

The annual kiwifruit harvest is under way and Gisborne is again leading the charge in an industry set to generate 150 million trays nationwide this season.

Harvesting of Gisborne’s crop started last Thursday and around 3.5 million trays are expected to be filled — about 12,000 tonnes of kiwifruit.

That figure is up about 20 percent on the crop last year.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) chief executive officer Nikki Johnson said Gisborne led the harvest nationally because the crop matured more quickly here than the rest of the country.

“Over March, orchards in the Bay of Plenty, Northland, Counties-Manukau, Waikato, Hawke’s Bay, the lower North Island and Tasman will follow suit,” she said. “It’s going to be a bumper crop.

“The first run of kiwifruit will predominantly be the gold variety, with the green kiwifruit harvest coming into full force in late March.”

Bill Thorpe, of NZ Fruits, said the crop quality here looked promising.

“We have been finding very good average-sized fruit and clean quality.”

NZ Fruits has invested significant capital in a new packing plant at its Lytton Road base.

“We have made the investment to accommodate the expanding crop in this district, which has been expanding progressively each year for several years,” Mr Thorpe said.

“There have been significant new plantings by our growers in response to a demonstrated increase in export demand.”

Mr Thorpe said the labour supply for the harvest here had been “tight”.

Workers were needed for multiple horticulture crops being harvested and processed here.

NZ Fruits went from a permanent workforce of 60 to around 260 during the harvest and finding additional appropriate labour was a challenge, he said.

The first shipment of Gisborne kiwifruit out of Eastland Port is scheduled for late next week.

“We expect a minimum of four, possibly five, shipments between now and May.”

The last of the Gisborne fruit will be picked by the end of April.

Zespri chief grower and alliances officer Dave Courtney said the first fruit picking was an exciting time.

“This year, we’re expecting a fantastic crop of great-tasting fruit to provide to Zespri consumers around the world.”

Ms Johnson said it was not clear yet if there would be a labour shortage nationally in the sector — a risk the NZKGI had sought to proactively mitigate through a programme of outreach and promotion to potential labour sources over the first quarter of 2019.

“We’ve gone all-out to tell our potential workers about the roles, pay and other important information, and dispel some of the myths about the work.

“We’ll soon know if it’s had an impact when the major picking starts. We’ll be doing contingency planning if we do have an issue in a month’s time.”

Ms Johnson said the industry required around 18,000 workers nationally through the harvest period. The recruitment campaign targeted Kiwis, including student and retirees, and backpackers.

EastPack Limited in the eastern Bay of Plenty is also picking early fruit this year.

Chief executive officer Hamish Simson said the company had already packed fruit at its Edgecumbe and Opotiki sites, and expected its other four sites to be in full swing by next week.

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