The gold rush has started

The 2019 kiwifruit harvest has officially kicked off on what the industry predicts will be a bumper crop.

Last season, Northland growers supplied export control agency Zespri with just under 3.3 million trays of fruit - and that was not considered a bumper crop.

The first of an estimated industry-wide 150 million trays have been picked and packed in Gisborne.

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Poverty Bay leads the charge this year because the crop matures more quickly there, New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) chief executive Nikki Johnson said.

"Over March, orchards in the Bay of Plenty, Northland, Counties-Manukau, Waikato, Hawke's Bay, the lower North Island and Tasman will follow suit – it's going to be a bumper crop."

The first run of kiwifruit is predominantly the gold variety, with the green harvest coming into full force in late March. The last fruit is picked in June.

Johnson said it is not clear yet if there will be a labour shortage in the sector, a risk the NZKGI has tried to avoid through contacting and promoting to potential labour sources.

Helping the campaign is The Little Green and Gold Book, a guide to the industry's seasonal work.

"We've gone all-out to tell our potential workers about the roles, pay and other important information – and dispel some of the myths about the work.''

The industry will need around 18,000 workers through the harvest period, with the recruitment campaign targeting Kiwi students and retirees as well as backpackers.

Kiwifruit is New Zealand's largest horticultural export and production is expected to jump from 123 million trays in 2017 to 190 million trays by 2027.

Global revenue was more than $2 billion in 2017. In 2017 when the minimum wage was $15.75, the average wage for picking kiwifruit was $20.95. The expected picking rate in 2019 is $23.50.