Kiwifruit industry remains at a loss

Photo: File.

The kiwifruit industry remains at a loss as to how to solve its self-described worker crisis.

The seasonal labour shortage of 1200 pickers and packers that was announced three Mondays ago has now halved to 600, after widespread media coverage and help from the Ministry for Social Development.

Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated chief executive Nikki Johnson told Checkpoint pack houses were still not running at capacity and would likely stay that way.

That’s despite kiwifruit giant Zespri’s profit - increasing from $35.8 million in the 2015/16 financial year to a forecast $170m in the upcoming financial year.

Most kiwifruit growers have shares in Zespri.

Ms Johnson said she did not know if the worker shortage could be fixed by paying pickers more.

"It’s a give and take situation, and it’s something that will play out as we understand the labour market a bit better."

Picking kiwifruit is physically demanding work that often pays close to the minimum wage.

The brief length of the season and because kiwifruit cannot be picked in the rain makes it hard for orchards to attract staff.

Ms Johnson said the industry was aware of these problems, highlighting a recent New Zealand Kiwi Growers Incorporated survey that found the average wage across its growers was $21 an hour.

"But when you average that over the number of hours available in a week where it rains, is that enough?

"We’ve got a real perception issue that people think it’s a minimum wage job, so, we can’t really say. If people knew it was $21-an-hour, or more, because that is the average, would that attract them to the roles? That’s what we need to understand."

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Posted on 24-05-2018 18:36 | By PurpleHen

Where are all these extra people going to stay while working in the area? The crop is much bigger than normal, hence the number of pickers needed is more than usual. The usual hostels and home stays are all full. We have backpacker accommodation and have been turning people away because we can not take more than our resource consent allows- we’ve been fully booked since the start of the season. People are reluctant to pick when the wage offered per bin works out less than minimum wage (which is supposed to be illegal to pay someone below minimum wage) and work is weather dependant. There’s nothing for the workers to do when it is wet and no money to do it with. Work and Income benefits are reduced by variable work hours. Does that sound attractive as a work option to you?


Posted on 24-05-2018 16:36 | By Marshal

I am not sure how it works, I have friends in the industry getting $20 an hour plus.. And some on $30 an hour plus... At the end of the season all of the kiwi fruit have been picked and packed, and sent of shore.. It looks to me like a smoke and mirror’s thing . People wanting credit for fixing a problem that doesn’t exist.. LOL!!!


Posted on 24-05-2018 13:26 | By overit

No work, no dole. Its easy to get $190(?)p/w out of a hole in the wall.

Very simple solution

Posted on 24-05-2018 13:20 | By Kaimai

Pay me well and I’ll be there, otherwise pick them yourself - simple really.


Posted on 24-05-2018 12:48 | By Capt_Kaveman

is the issue maybe each orchard and pack house could buy a bus as many dont have the transport to get there


Posted on 24-05-2018 12:26 | By Anton

I read this week someone picking kiwi fruit flowers and made $ 6.- an hour if it is contract work you should have at least minimum wages.In Europe contract work is always well paid, but the bosses here are to greedy to share in profit.That is why so many people have to turn the heater down in winter.Contract work in Kiwifruit is a dirty business.

Visa variation.

Posted on 24-05-2018 09:10 | By waiknot

A friend applied for a variation in her visitor visa to take advantage of the worker shortage. It cost $160 send her passport to Hamilton, and then took over a week for immigration to action and return her passport.


Posted on 24-05-2018 08:19 | By Marshal

A few big Ego’s fuelled with that much profit.. lol New Zealand’s top corps could get together and have a competition, The one which wins can have all the money there is .. lol In case its obscure , that’s sarcasm ..

scratching your heads?

Posted on 24-05-2018 07:57 | By Homesteadin

Seriously? Its one of the worst paid jobs out there, and one of the most physically demanding! Why the corporates are rolling in the $$$$ the people picking and packing are on minimum wage atrocious conditions... orchards way off the beaten track to have to travel to every day, sometimes only to be told to go home as its starting to rain.. who wants to work like that? More pay ? Ummm YES??

Time to make dole changes

Posted on 24-05-2018 07:49 | By Angels

Time to enforce rules of getting the dole. If you refuse to work the dole stops.Our pc system is not working. To easy to get the dole and the amount is so good they don,t want to work.The jobs are for unskilled labour so poor pay. Dole people think they deserve trade wages for unskilled and unproven work history ( or they would not be on dole).Time to change their attitudes. Dole changes require. If needed dole could top up any shortfalls doles might experience.

Spot on johnney

Posted on 24-05-2018 07:10 | By namxa

Big money in kiwi fruit these days...unless youre somewhere in the pick/pack process. Rubbish wages.

Pay me the money!

Posted on 24-05-2018 06:51 | By leighmac

You are making the money, pay a wage that I can pay the mortgage and raise 2 kids? hint, Thats not $700.00 per 40 hour week!!

Money talks

Posted on 23-05-2018 22:40 | By Johnney

If the money is right then problem solved. Simply supply and demand.

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