New Zealand’s 2022 kiwifruit harvest has kicked off with the first crop being picked this week in Te Puke and more kiwifruit to be picked around New Zealand over the coming months.
The 2022 season has the potential to be another record-breaking year with more kiwifruit produced than ever before. A forecast of at least 190 million trays will need to be harvested, overtaking last year’s record of over 177 million trays. On average, each tray has around 30 pieces of kiwifruit.
Zespri’s new RubyRed variety is picked first which is then followed by the Gold and Green varieties. The harvest traditionally peaks in mid-April and runs through until June.
The sweet, berry-tinged tasting Red kiwifruit will also be picked for supermarket shelves in New Zealand and some overseas markets this year. 2022 marks the first year that RubyRed will be sold as a commercial variety.
Zespri’s Chief Grower, Industry and Sustainability Officer, Carol Ward says, “With this season’s harvest about to commence, growers and the wider industry will again be following all government protocols and working hard to safely pick, pack and ship what’s expected to be another bumper crop of at least 190 million trays, maybe more.
“As well as a continued increase in our SunGold Kiwifruit volumes this season, we’re excited for the first year of commercial volumes of Zespri RubyRed Kiwifruit which we know is keenly anticipated by our consumers in New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and China.”
The success of the 2022 kiwifruit harvest hinges on the ability for industry’s supply chain to operate effectively under the quickly changing COVID-19 settings. The industry requires 24,000 people to pick and pack the crop. However, forecast surges in COVID-19 infection rates are expected to restrict the availability of New Zealanders. In addition, the opening of New Zealand’s borders is expected to be too late to replace the 6,500 backpackers required for harvest.
New Zealand has some 2,800 growers who produce kiwifruit across over 13,000 hectares of orchards between Kerikeri in the north and Motueka in the south.
CEO of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. (NZKGI), Colin Bond says that the industry has built experience over the past two years on how to operate a harvest under COVID-19 restrictions. “The health and safety of our workforce is our first priority and NZKGI is working continually with government agencies to develop operational processes to mitigate COVID-19 infections”.
The industry is working collaboratively to do everything we can to get all the fruit off the vines – and that must be done in a way which puts our people first”.
2022 marks NZKGI’s fourth year of its labour attraction campaign, to attract seasonal workers to pick and pack in the harvest.
“I strongly encourage everyone to roll up their sleeves and join the team to harvest this iconic piece of kiwiana”, says Colin. “Picking is a great opportunity for those who like to be in the outdoors, while the packhouse is suited to those who like to have fun in larger teams indoors”.
Almost all packhouses have told NZKGI that they will be paying at least the living wage of $22.75 per hour. Kiwifruit picking is also expected to exceed the living wage with an average of $27 per hour paid last year when the minimum wage was $20 per hour. Information on job opportunities can be found on the NZKGI website or on the Facebook page KiwifruitJobsNZ.
The kiwifruit industry is an important player for communities across New Zealand, contributing $2.2bn in 2021.