Kiwifruit CEO of Seeka Michael Franks says from now until June the industry is in desperate need of workers. He says they need 1200 more employees to pick, pack and prepare the kiwifruit to export overseas.
Franks says, “the Kiwifruit is here but the workers are not around”.
“There are two issues, firstly we can't get all the people we need to run our packing machines, run the harvest. We have a full picking crew. Our capacity could curtail and what it means for our growers is that we can't get to their fruit when we want to get to it”.
Franks has been the CEO of SEEKA since 2003 and says they have 2750 seasonal roles available, but they are currently 300 short.
“We have got to make it easier, one to have more New Zealanders in work but also to make it an attractive place for backpackers to come and work for us for this short and intensive time in the harvest window”.
The Bay of Plenty produces 80 percent of the Kiwifruit crop which is why they are asking for more workers.
“Look there is more and more Kiwifruit being planted and we are switching out on lower yearly varieties and higher yearly varieties and actually there is going to be more and more work of this kind of nature in this industry and so if we have an acute problem now it's only going to get worst as we push on in time” says Mr Franks.
By 2019 the industry is expected to increase to $1.8 billion in exports.