New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) says it is pleased that around 250 people have successfully applied to vary the conditions of their visitor visas following the declaration of a labor shortage.
The declaration for the Bay of Plenty and extension in Hawkes Bay was made on April 5 amid concerns over whether there would be enough people in the orchards and in the packhouses for the harvest.
The group said the number of people successfully applying to stay longer in the country is expected to "increase sharply over this week".
This week marks the beginning of the peak of harvest for the kiwifruit industry in the Bay of Plenty, NZKGI said in a release. The peak is expected to last until the end of May.
More than 18,000 seasonal workers will be required to pick and pack the kiwifruit, it added.
"While we are pleased our attraction campaign has increased the number of visitors who have shown interest to work in the kiwifruit industry, we are likely to require more workers to pick and pack at season peak," CEO Nikki Johnson said.
“As a first priority, we are calling on people who live in close proximity to orchards and packhouses to roll up their sleeves and join us in this booming industry.”
Current estimates put the potential labor shortfall at peak around 3,550 the Bay of Plenty’s kiwifruit industry, NZKGI said. There was a shortfall of 1,200 vacancies at the peak of harvest in 2018.
So far around a quarter of New Zealand's estimated volume of over 155 million trays has been picked and packed.
Potential employees who would like to find work in the kiwifruit industry can find information around employers, job types and rights on the NZKGI website (www.nzkgi.org.nz). Overseas visitors are encouraged to visit the Immigration New Zealand website where detailed information about varying the conditions of a visa can be found.