Moves are well underway to establish a new Kiwifruit Breeding Centre (KBC) - a joint venture between Plant and Food Research (PFR) and Zespri - designed to speed up the process of developing new and improved kiwifruit varieties.
Up to $200,000 is being invested to help people into work and meet urgent seasonal demand in the sector.
“We know that people have lost their jobs because of COVID-19, and we know there is significant and urgent demand for trained workers in the horticulture sector,” says Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.
“During lockdown the kiwifruit industry provided a lifeline for a number of displaced workers from industries such as tourism, forestry and hospitality. We want to continue to connect people with jobs in horticulture, and more broadly in the primary industries because we know these sectors will be key to our economic recovery.
O’Connor says in the immediate term, the Government is aiming to place at least 10,000 New Zealanders in primary sector jobs.
COVID-19 travel restrictions resulted in the kiwifruit sector facing labour shortages, however, indicative figures show that New Zealanders have responded to the call for workers.
Kiwifruit businesses are now employing around 70% New Zealanders, with some businesses employing up to 90%, compared to around 50% last season.
O’Connor says the figures indicate that interest from local workers is there and this should be built upon in the longer term.
“Right now the focus for kiwifruit growers is to complete pruning over winter. This is critical for next year’s production. So we’re not wasting any time, these courses will start this month.”