Article by: Hari Yellina
New Zealanders living abroad are being persuaded to return home and perform their duty as a citizen of selecting and packing kiwifruit for the country’s benefit. They may also be able to assist in the export of New Zealand’s first red kiwifruit if they act quickly. The yearly harvest in New Zealand began this week at Te Puke, a Bay of Plenty town regarded as the kiwifruit capital due to its hillside orchards brimming with fruit. The harvest is expected to take four months, and kiwifruit marketers Zespri are anticipating a record crop. That is if they can find enough people to do it.
The workforce is typically made up of 60% locals, 20% Pacific employees, and 20% backpackers, but with border settings still being carefully regulated, the backpacking crowd isn’t available. The situation is exacerbated by New Zealand’s tight labour market; unemployment is at an all-time high of 3.2 percent, which means there are fewer Kiwis looking for work than usual. Colin Bond, the chief executive of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc, says the company is appealing to Kiwis both at home and overseas to help make up for the shortage. “We could be roughly 6000 short,” Mr Bond told AAP, “since that’s around the number of backpackers we generally have.”
“What we’re trying to figure out is how to bridge that divide. As a result, we’ll make an effort to attract more New Zealanders.” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern outlined a reopening strategy last month, beginning with Kiwis in Australia, who would be able to enter without quarantining from next week. From March 14, working holidaymakers will be included, resulting in a short turnaround time before the peak harvesting season in mid-April. Given this, growers in Australia are hoping that Kiwis will cross the ditch and roll up their sleeves. Mr Bond added, “We’re a billion-dollar sector for New Zealand, and that money feeds back into local communities.” “It’s about everyone chipping in and coming to help out the producers, to pick a little of ‘kiwiana’ and come and help out.”
Pickers will be able to try a new kind this year: Zespri’s RubyRed flavour. Over the last decade, the new fruit has been designed to guarantee that it has the proper colour, taste, and is easy to store and produce for commercial purposes. The RubyRed is said to have an edible peel and is “strong in antioxidants, rich in Vitamin C, and a good source of folate, potassium, and Vitamin E,” according to Zespri. This season, only a few hundred thousand trays will be exported, representing a small portion of the whole market. Unfortunately for Australian consumers, they’ll be heading to Singapore, Japan, and China, with Australia being included in future plans. As a result, Australians should travel to New Zealand to sample the fruit.