The country's horticultural sector is offering a lifeline for workers from other industries impacted by the Covid-19 lockdown, including in the Bay of Plenty region.

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Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the horticulture sector had long been one of New Zealand's export "star performers" having contributed about $6 billion a year to the country's economy.

"Now they're also becoming a lifeline for a number of redeployed workers from industries such as tourism, forestry and hospitality," he said.

O'Connor said overseas workers traditionally filled roles in horticulture but because of Covid-19 precautions many were not available


New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc reported some businesses now had a workforce of more than 90 per cent New Zealanders, compared to about 50 per cent last season.

Last week more than 100 staff were placed into roles in the Bay of Plenty, Auckland and Nelson regions.

The pip fruit industry had seen about 200 workers from other industries placed into jobs across the country, the Minister said.

O'Connor said it was great to see Kiwis taking up the opportunity to be part of this essential industry.

"Now is a peak time for picking apples and kiwifruit and workers are in high demand with over 20,000 needed at the peak of the harvest.

"There are jobs going all over the country in our key growing areas, and the Government is working alongside the primary sector to help ensure workers get to the places they are needed.

"We are currently investigating further ways we can boost the primary sector essential workforce through the Government's $100m redeployment scheme."

O'Connor said there was no shortage of demand for New Zealand produce.


"The world needs a continuous supply of fresh fruit and vegetables and our country is in the position to help do that," he said.

"Our primary sector is part of the solution to global food security concerns in the short-term and will play a critical role in New Zealand's economic recovery after COVID-19.

This is why we have ensured that our food supply chain (farmers, processing, distribution, supermarkets) can continue to operate during the lockdown to keep our exports flowing."

O'Connor said conversations with industry leaders made it clear that the primary sector appreciated they were in a privileged position of being deemed an essential service.

"They're very aware that other sectors are doing it tough and they want to do what they can to help. They know, just as the Government does, that the best thing to do right now is keeping people connected to jobs," he said.

"The Government is doing that through the wage subsidy scheme that has paid out about $6 billion to date, and the primary sector wants to give those who have lost jobs opportunities in its sector."

"I thank our farmers, growers, meat workers, fruit pickers and all the others who are helping our primary sector to keep operating as an essential service during the COVID-19 global pandemic," O'Connor said.