Labour shortages on orchards are beginning to impact the quality of New Zealand products in global markets.
Zespri's new RubyRed is the first variety to be picked and it's also the first time this new sweet and tasty kiwifruit has been picked commercially. It will be available on some NZ supermarket shelves and also exported.
Zespri's chief grower, industry and sustainability officer Carol Ward says as well as a continued increase in SunGold Kiwifruit volumes this season, the company is excited about the first year of commercial volumes of Zespri RubyRed Kiwifruit becoming available.
"We know this is keenly anticipated by our consumers in New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and China," she says.
Ward says the industry requires 24,000 people to pick and pack the crop this year. But she says forecast surges in Covid-19 infection rates are expected to restrict the availability of New Zealanders.
"In addition, the opening of New Zealand's borders is expected to be too late to replace the 6,500 backpackers usually required for harvest," she says.
NZ has some 2,800 growers who produce kiwifruit across 13,000 hectares of orchards between Kerikeri in the north and Motueka in the south.