Largest-ever kiwifruit harvest begins

2021 is expected to overtake last year’s record of 157 million trays. Supplied photos.

New Zealand’s 2021 kiwifruit harvest has kicked off with the first commercial crop being picked this morning in Gisborne and more kiwifruit to be picked across New Zealand over the coming days.

The 2021 season is forecast to be another record-breaking year with more kiwifruit produced than ever before, overtaking last year’s record of 157 million trays of export Green and Gold.

On average, each tray has around 30 pieces of kiwifruit.

The Gold variety is usually picked first, followed by Green kiwifruit in late March.

Harvest peaks in mid-April and runs through until June.

In addition to the Green and Gold kiwifruit, consumers can look forward to Zespri’s sweet, berry-tinged tasting Red kiwifruit which will also be picked for supermarket shelves in New Zealand and some overseas markets this year.

New Zealand has some 2800 growers who produce kiwifruit across 13,000 hectares of orchards between Kerikeri in the north and Motueka in the south.

Nikki Johnson, CEO of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. (NZKGI), says that the lead up to harvest has been a mixed bag for growers.

Nikki Johnson.

“This year has been devastating for a small number of growers whose crops in Motueka and other isolated areas who were hit by hail. On the other hand, the season is shaping up to produce high quality kiwifruit which means consumers can anticipate a great tasting product coming to supermarket shelves.”

Carol Ward, Zespri’s Chief Grower, Industry and Sustainability Officer, says the wider kiwifruit industry’s ability to adapt and work closely together last season meant the industry could safely pick, pack and ship a record-breaking crop of fruit, and expected the 2021 season to be no different.

“Growers and the wider kiwifruit industry are working hard to make sure consumers across the world can enjoy fresh, healthy fruit like our kiwifruit once harvest begins," says Carol.

“We’re encouraged by the strong demand we’re seeing for our fruit, and we’ll continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 environment and it’s impacts both in New Zealand and abroad as we begin shipping this year’s crop."

The forecast record crop means that there are a lot of jobs available for picking and packing. Up to 23,000 seasonal workers will be in orchards and packhouses during the April peak.

With border closures reducing the number of backpackers and Pacific Islanders from the RSE scheme, the industry will welcome even more Kiwis to work in the industry.

“The kiwifruit industry offers well paid jobs across a variety of roles,” says Nikki.

“There’s a great team environment and you can have fun while you work and meet people from all around New Zealand.”

Almost all packhouses have told NZKGI that they will be paying at least the living wage of $22.10 per hour.

Kiwifruit picking is also expected to exceed the living wage with an average of $24 per hour paid last year when the minimum wage was $18.90 per hour. Information on job opportunities can be found on the NZKGI website or on the Facebook page KiwifruitJobsNZ.

The kiwifruit industry is an important player for communities across New Zealand, contributing almost $2bn in 2020.

2020 Kiwifruit industry regional contribution

  • Kerikeri: $55m
  • Whangarei: $21m
  • Auckland: $66m
  • Waihi: $23m
  • Waikato: $66m
  • Katikati $209m
  • Tauranga: $219m
  • Te Puke: $417
  • Maketu: $95m
  • Paengaroa: $130m
  • Manuatutu: $84m
  • Pukehina: $115
  • Whakatane: $81m
  • Opotiki: $172m
  • Poverty Bay: $57m
  • Hawke’s Bay: $34m
  • Lower North Island: $6m
  • South Island: $63m

Facts & Figures

  • Kiwifruit is New Zealand’s largest horticultural export.
  • New Zealand kiwifruit production is expected to jump from 150 million trays in 2020 to 190 million trays in 2027.
  • The kiwifruit industry’s global revenue is expected to jump from over $3.4 billion in 2020 to $6 billion by 2030.

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