Kiwifruit Industry Desperate for Workers

Experiencing its “toughest-ever season” due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, high pay rates of up to $60 per hour and incentives such as cash bonuses, prizes and free transport, accommodation and food are being offered to lure pickers to the kiwifruit industry.

Packhouse bosses and office workers are currently rolling up their sleeves, hitting the shop floor and getting into the yards to “get the job done”.

The kiwifruit industry requires 24,000 people to pick and pack over a typical harvest but is drastically short of workers this season due to the lack of international workers, such as backpackers or workers from overseas who normally travel to New Zealand for seasonal work.

There is currently a shortage of 6,500 backpackers due to border closures. Added to that is both a shortage of seasonal workers from overseas, and New Zealand workers due to the Omicron wave. This season, an experienced picker can make over $60 an hour or $500-600 a day. Even a beginner who has never done the work before can make $30-$40 an hour.

While top dollar is offered for pickers, some prefer the fixed wages in packhouses, which are not weather dependent. These businesses are also competing for workers, and have upped their pay rates accordingly, with wages starting from $24 per hour, plus holiday pay and incentives.