The kiwifruit industry is confident its record harvest is on track despite Covid-19 and markets around the world are responding strongly to the first shipments.
Meanwhile, jobs were still available in the industry and post-harvest leaders said it was business as usual despite the new Covid-19 rules and regulations.
Zespri Chief grower and alliances officer Dave Courtney said shipments had arrived in Japan and China while all of its other markets had container shipments in transit.
He said Zespri was encouraged by the demand for its fruit in Japan and the strong demand signals it was seeing in all its major markets.
''At the end of last week we had shipped 9.8 million trays year to date, compared to 5.3 million trays at the same point last year, so we're tracking very well. We still have no market issues at this stage and ports are operational.''
Its export season would run from March until around November, and ''our contingency planning takes account of the changing environment''.
''Our team continues to meet regularly and plan for a range of scenarios and to help ensure the industry innovates and adapts to the new operating environment imposed by Covid-19.''
In 2018/19 Zespri exported 148.8 million trays of kiwifruit and that was expected to jump to 155 million trays this season.
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc chief executive Nikki Johnson said its latest analysis for seasonal labour in the kiwifruit industry indicates ''there are enough pickers and packers at this time''.
''However, the situation remains very fluid and will need to be reassessed continually as we move further into the peak of harvest.''
Kiwifruit industry offers jobs as labour shortage bites
First shipment of SunGold sets sail despite Covid-19 challenges
Coronavirus: Thai kiwifruit workers, 40, in self-isolation in Bay of Plenty
The industry had also implemented a range of measures to protect workers and ultimately communities from Covid-19.
"These have had some impact on the efficiency of picking and packing operations. We're continuing to speak with businesses regularly about safe operating protocols.''
As businesses became more familiar with the requirements and can refine them, it was hoped efficiencies will return close to expected levels, she said.
''The combination of increased efficiencies and peak harvest volumes plus anticipated worker turnover means there are likely to be continued work opportunities in the kiwifruit industry.''
Trevelyan's managing director James Trevelyan said it still required 200 to 300 workers.
Some of its Covid-19 procedures included two paramedics on-site and taking the temperature of every employee every day plus a dedicated Covid-19 team.
Two staff members who had flu symptoms were also tested for Covid-19 as a precaution.
He said they were ticking off the regulations, like the two-metre rule, one by one. It was about mitigating risk and being smarter.
''When you get these absolute changing events, I saw it with Psa, you just get this sort of free fall because no one knows what normal looks like. Slowly as you hit rock bottom and your production drops and then you slowly, slowly get better with new ideas and innovations and slowly solving problems.''
Two weeks ago Trevelyan said he was really nervous.
''Now I am less nervous...we are getting a bit of noise there now and the other night we started another shift.''
Eastpack chief executive Hamish Simson said all of its sites had the day off on Saturday after another good week of packing fruit.
''On Sunday, all of our sites were operational with all shifts engaged in packing fruit.''
Pāpāmoa kiwifruit grower Rob Thode said it was not ''doom and gloom'' and he was feeling confident about the future.
''We're actually doing fine. I don't think there is a problem and we're getting better at adapting to the situation as time goes on.''
He said growers had months to get fruit off the vines although ideally, gold kiwifruit needed to come off by early May.
A more simplified process for getting clearance to pick had also helped.
''So, to be honest with you, I think things are going to be very good this year, even if we've got challenges to overcome, but I'm really confident we can do that.''
During the peak harvest in May the sector requires 20,000 seasonal employees, the majority of those in the Bay of Plenty and some jobs are still available.
Want a kiwifruit job?
* Connect via the KiwifruitJobsNZ Facebook page.