The Ministry of Social Development has today declared a seasonal labour shortage across the Bay of Plenty, saying an additional 1,200 people are needed to pick and pack an extra 20 million trays of kiwifruit this season.
The declaration will be in place from today until June 8 and follows discussions with sector leaders, industry experts and other Government agencies, the ministry said.
Regional Commissioner Mike Bryant says by declaring a labour shortage, people from overseas with visitor visas can apply for a Variation of Conditions to allow them to work through the declaration period, he said.
Mr Bryant says a number of factors led to the labour shortage being called, including a strong kiwifruit season, a decrease in the number of international students in the region, a bounce back from the PSA virus impacting crop volumes and varieties, and a relatively low unemployment rate of 5.1 per cent in the region.
"To date around a third of this year's crop has been picked and packed, however the industry's entering the main packing period and more people are needed to help with work," Mr Bryant said.
The forecast volume for this year's kiwifruit harvest is about 142 million trays, a 19 per cent increase from last season's crop of 120 million trays.
The SunGold variety of kiwifruit, which accounts for 44 per cent of total crops, also requires picking in a shorter time-frame and means more reliance on fruit pickers during this period.
MSD says between January and April this year, it placed more than 1,000 people into job vacancies in the kiwifruit industry through providing work brokerage support, training, up skilling opportunities, financial and case management support.
"We estimate between 80 to 100 additional people from our Western Bay of Plenty Work and Income sites suitable for seasonal employment that could be used to meet the labour shortage. However more workers are still needed, because our clients alone won’t fill the estimated 1200 job vacancies in the industry," Mr Bryant said.
The Bay of Plenty already has a strong presence of about 2000 Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers in the region.