With New Zealand on lockdown and no foreign visitors coming into the country for work or pleasure, Kiwi orchards and vineyards are down 1300 workers.

The horticulture sector is highly reliant on seasonal workers from the Pacific Islands to harvest crops and for winter pruning. Growers of kiwifruit don’t have enough workers to get the kiwifruit harvest, which runs from now through to the end of June, picked and shipped.

A silver lining is that the sector could be filled by hospitality and tourism workers whose jobs have been affected but the coronavirus outbreak.

Danielle Ellis, a director of Te Puke firm Bay Kiwifruit Contracting, posted to Facebook earlier this week that with borders in Vanuatu now closed,  workers due to arrive would no longer be able to come. The company was telling people in the Bay of Plenty and Te Puke region that there would be work available for those who need it.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers chief executive Nicky Johnson said she would be seeking clarification on whether, as a foodservice business, the company would be exempt from the level 4 lockdown so that harvesting and pruning could continue to take place.

Hawke's Bay horticulture labour firm Thornhill had 60 Vanuatuans due to head home in the next month that would no longer be able to leave. If existing workers could get a visa extension and could start pruning early, Thornhill could manage for this season, said business manager Nick Bibby.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers would also look at a training programme to bring novice workers up to speed.