NZ horticulture sector feeding Kiwis and the world during COVID-19

  • Hon Damien O’Connor

More New Zealanders are taking up the chance to work in horticulture as the sector keeps New Zealanders fed and in jobs during the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown.

“Our horticulture sector has long been one of New Zealand’s export star performers, contributing around $6 billion a year to our economy. Now they’re also becoming a lifeline for a number of redeployed workers from industries such as tourism, forestry and hospitality,” Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

Overseas workers traditionally fill roles in horticulture but because of COVID-19 precautions many are not available.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. reports some businesses now have a workforce of up to 90 per cent New Zealanders, compared to the industry average of around 50 per cent last season. Last week alone, more than 100 staff were placed into roles in the Bay of Plenty, Auckland and Nelson.

The pipfruit industry has seen around 200 workers from other industries placed into jobs across the country.

“It is great to see Kiwis taking up the opportunity to be part of this essential industry. Now is a peak time for picking apples and kiwifruit.  Workers are in high demand - over 20,000 are needed at the peak of harvest.”

“There are jobs going all over the country in our key growing areas and the Government is working alongside the primary sector to help ensure workers get to the places they are needed. We are currently investigating further ways we can boost the primary sector essential workforce through the Government’s $100m redeployment scheme.

“There is no shortage of demand for our produce. The world needs a continuous supply of fresh fruit and vegetables and our country is in the position to help do that.

 “Our primary sector is part of the solution to global food security concerns in the short-term and will play a critical role in New Zealand’s economic recovery after Covid-19, which is why we have ensured that our food supply chain (farmers, processing, distribution, supermarkets) can continue to operate during the lockdown to keep our exports flowing.

“I know, from conversations I’ve had with industry leaders, that the primary sector are very conscious of the fact that they are in the privileged position of being deemed an essential service. They are very aware that other sectors are doing it tough want to do what they can to help. They know, just as the Government does, that the best thing to do right now is keep people connected to jobs. The Government is doing that through the wage subsidy that has paid out about $6b to date, the primary sector wants to give those who have lost jobs opportunities in its sector.

“I thank our farmers, growers, meat workers, fruit pickers and all the others who are helping our primary sector to keep operating as an essential service during the Covid-19 global pandemic”.

For information on job opportunities visit