A critical shortage of seasonal workers could hamper the kiwifruit industry's predicted growth over the next decade, a new report says.
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated has produced a report showing the largely Bay of Plenty-based industry will require an additional 7000 seasonal workers if it is to double in size by 2027 as predicted.
Revenue was predicted to increase from $2.1 billion in 2017 to $4 billion over the decade.
At the start of the 2018 season, the industry was short 1200 workers with 70 per cent of the crop still to be picked.
The situation prompted the Government to declare a labour shortage and to loosen up visa conditions for visitors willing to work.
NZKGI chief executive Nikki Johnson said the situation "will escalate significantly if no action is taken".
"The kiwifruit industry is growing quickly, and NZKGI is committed to progressing the discussion on solutions that can mitigate the risks of labour shortages."
The report pointed to low unemployment rates, fewer people on working holidays choosing to work in the industry, the short-term work and what they have called "outdated perceptions" of worker welfare and pay rates.
It said the industry was working to rekindle interest in seasonal kiwifruit work by, among other means, upping pay rates, offering more flexible and reliable work and extending seasonal work contracts.
Seeka chief executive Michael Franks said the company was short of staff this season and could not run all the machines it wanted to.
''We have this huge explosion of work and this huge explosion of employment that is beyond the labour supply. So as the volumes goes up and the industry grows and expands, then that situation will become more and more acute.''
He acknowledged suggestions that kiwifruit workers should be paid more was partly valid but said there came a point where there were not enough people.
Franks hoped the government would be sympathetic and realise it needed more overseas workers to complement the local workforce.
Zespri communications manager Oliver Broad said the expected growth of the kiwifruit industry required more labour at all levels across the industry.
''Zespri has been supporting NZKGI's initiative to research and understand the issue. Building a clear view of our future requirements is an important first step to develop a long-term strategy and solution on labour needs."
Kiwifruit grower Don Heslop said, although he had not experienced the labour shortage, it was an issue that needed to be managed going forward.
He had been in the industry for a ''very long time'' and said it was reliant on backpackers and travellers.
''So we need a government that allows them to do seasonal work in this country.''
Meanwhile NZKGI chairman Doug Brown said the worst case scenario would be fruit would not be picked and ''that would be a disaster''.
''The reality is fruit won't get picked or picked past its optimum which will potentially increase fruit loss.''
He did not want to put ''the cart before the horse'' but said it was frustrating when there was a huge opportunity out there for growers.
The NZKGI report had been presented to the government for discussion.