NZKGI New Zealand Kiwifruit orchard picking labour

The 2020 New Zealand kiwifruit season is now underway with the first fruit of what is set to be a large, good tasting crop picked in Gisborne and the Bay of Plenty.

The 2020 season is forecast to produce around 155m trays of green and gold kiwifruit, up from the 147m trays exported in 2019.

Gold kiwifruit will be predominately picked first, followed by Green kiwifruit in late March. The last fruit will be picked in June.

Alongside the picking of green and gold kiwifruit, Zespri Red Kiwifruit will also be picked as a commercial variety for the first time. This new variety will be destined for markets in Japan and Singapore as well as supermarket shelves in New Zealand.

Nikki Johnson, chief executive of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. (NZKGI), said consumers should expect the fruit to be tasting 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 and dry weather, which may be influential,” said Johnson.

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,” said Johnson.

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

In terms of labour Johnson said it will become clearer if there are sufficient workers as the industry gets closer to the peak of harvest. In the meantime, 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.

Dave Courtney, chief grower and alliances officer of Zespri, said Zespri is expecting another great tasting crop with more SunGold than Green kiwifruit.

“This year we’re again expecting to have more SunGold than Green kiwifruit, and of course we’ll be bringing an increasing amount of Zespri Red Kiwifruit to market following last year’s limited release,” Courtney said.

“We’re also excited to introduce our new brand to consumers and progressively roll this out to markets across the year.”