Gold kiwifruit volumes are expected to increase by 70 per cent this year - sparking an employment drive across the industry.

The increase in volumes is also expected to pump millions of dollars into the local economy.

Zespri chief operating officer Simon Limmer said in 2013/14, 18 million trays were produced and that was predicted to rise "to upward of 30 million trays" and could reach 60 million trays by 2017.

"We have got three years of very steep volume growth, potentially up to 50 to 60 million trays. We were at 30 million trays in 2011 which was the pre-Psa impact and dropped back to 11 million trays in 2012/13 so we are now on the recovery."


The steepness of the current curve had its challenges, compounded with 2013/14 average orchard gate returns when Zespri Gold hit $9.72 per tray and averaged $73,317 per hectare in December 2014.

Gold licences had also lifted from 2700 hectares to 5000 since 2011 so it had to "put on all the taps in all the markets" with post harvest companies also creating additional capacity to cope.

"Effectively we have increased the gold pool significantly and are now in a stage of consolidation.

"We need to make sure we are handling the gold volumes that are coming through and growers are focused on growing a quality product focused on taste."

The rapid growth meant Zespri was recruiting about 70 onshore and offshore staff over the next 12 to 18 months, he said.

New markets had been opened in Southeast Asia while Brazil and the Middle East held future potential while its reliance on Europe had shifted with more fruit going into China.

Trevelyans Pack and Cool managing director James Trevelyan said it had employed two new high-level management staff on the back of increased volumes.

Solid employment opportunities over a longer harvest was good news, he said.


Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dave Burnett said the kiwifruit industry was worth $1 billion to the New Zealand economy and 80 per cent of orchards were based in the Bay of Plenty so "it's huge".

Te Puke Economic Development Group managing director Mark Boyle said the forecast was positive and beneficial to the various industries that relied on it.

"A large percentage of the volume comes from Te Puke and the local economy is really reliant on its success. We see the opportunity for job creation for all these businesses doing well out of the growth in the industry."

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc president Neil Treblico said there would be a greater requirement for people on orchards and employment opportunities within the industry.

However, gold kiwifruit growers needed to exercise caution as he expected "significantly lower returns" this season due to supply and demand and foreign exchange rates.