The response to COVID-19 is ongoing. You can find the latest information on how Zespri is looking after our people, as well as what COVID-19 means for the wider kiwifruit industry here.
New Zealand is currently at Alert Level 1, and Zespri fully supports the efforts of the New Zealand Government to manage COVID-19.
Our global Zespri offices continue to be affected by COVID-19. Zespri staff around the world have been working effectively under different levels of lockdown for a number of months and have adapted accordingly.
The season continues to progress well and we will continue to work hard to ensure people, communities and the environment around the world thrive through the goodness of kiwifruit.
Zespri takes the response to COVID-19 incredibly seriously.
This virus continues to have an immense impact on communities and businesses around the world and will require all of us to work together to manage and overcome it.
Our team are continuing to be guided by official advice, as well as the enhanced standards set by the industry.
Our focus during this time is on our people, making sure they are supported and that we are continuing to be led by our values while supporting our broader communities and on delivering this season.
As a food producer, our supply chain is classified by the New Zealand Government as an essential service, and will continue to operate under strict Government guidelines and with enhanced hygiene practices in place at all Alert Levels. All New Zealand-grown kiwifruit has been picked and packed, and is on its way to global consumers, however industry will continue to follow all requirements under the Government’s Alert Levels. This will help protect our broader industry, jobs and livelihoods in many regions.
Zespri has staff based in global offices around the world and we have been supporting them as much as possible and basing operational decisions on the advice of local authorities as well as expert health and safety and risk advisors.
During the course of the outbreak, our approach has seen us close our offices including our New Zealand head office as required, cease unnecessary travel, cancel our tours and events programme, and ensure staff who travelled overseas self-isolated. Our team are well equipped to work remotely and many continue to do so under Alert Level 2 (Zespri’s head office is based in Mount Maunganui, Bay of Plenty).
Our industry understands the importance of food safety and worker hygiene, and we will continue to place a focus on this.
While we continue to plan for a range of contingencies, as an essential food supply service, Zespri is focused on delivering the New Zealand season as planned.
Our team is engaging regularly with the New Zealand Government and making prudent decisions for our people, our business and the wider kiwifruit industry. We continue to see strong global demand for fresh, healthy fruit like kiwifruit, however we note the ongoing risks associated with our offshore consumers being able to physically access our fruit.
While the situation remains fluid, we continue to see positive signals in our major markets and our team around the world is working hard to ensure accessibility of our fruit, despite the complications caused by COVID-19. This season we’re expecting to supply around 155 million trays to consumers around the world – slightly more than we did last year.
There is currently no confirmed case of COVID-19 transmitted through food or food packaging. However, we are continuing to take food safety incredibly seriously and are maintaining our robust food safety procedures.
These are undoubtedly challenging times. The kiwifruit industry’s strength is its collaborative nature and we will tackle the current challenge posed by COVID-19 by continuing to support each other, by working together, and by following all official advice.
This season, we worked closely with industry partners to implement a range of enhanced hygiene practices at workplaces to better protect workers in the wider industry, and to offer jobs to those who lost their roles in the hospitality and tourism sectors.
We are confident that our organisation and industry structure, guided by our values, and our close connections together are well placed to manage the impacts of COVID-19 and come through this challenge just as well as we can, so that consumers around the world can enjoy the health benefits of a Zespri Kiwifruit.
Continue scrolling to read our frequently asked questions.
1. What is Zespri doing to meet the COVID-19 protocols, and how are you keeping your staff and growers safe?
Our focus continues to be the health and wellbeing of our people. Zespri offices around the world have been impacted by the outbreak, and we are continuing to follow the advice of local authorities as well as expert health and safety and risk advisors. This has included closing offices in New Zealand, Belgium, China and Italy over the course of the outbreak, in response to efforts by governments to prevent the spread. We have also previously taken measures such as restricting all staff travel, making sure those staff who have travelled overseas are self-isolating, implementing enhanced hygiene practices across the industry and cancelling meetings and our Tours and Events programme. We also continue to work alongside industry on enhanced hygiene practices on the orchard and in the packhouse.
2. How has COVID-19 affected Zespri operations?
Zespri is focused on delivering the New Zealand season as planned. The Government has confirmed that as a food producer, our supply chain is an essential service, and will continue to operate under all Alert Levels, with strict hygiene requirements. Our team and the wider industry is working hard to deliver fruit from our New Zealand season to consumers. Attracting enough workers will remain a challenge but we have a range of initiatives in place to try and attract enough people to fill jobs in the industry, including those whose regular jobs have been affected by the outbreak.
3. How confident are you that you can get your fruit to market?
We’re seeing strong demand in our key markets for fresh, healthy fruit like kiwifruit. This season’s fruit is in all of our markets and continuing to flow well through our container and charter vessel shipping operations.
4. What is the advice from the Government on Alert Level 2 and Alert Level 3?
This advice can be found here. Under Alert Level 2 New Zealanders can resume many of our usual daily activities, but are urged to maintain physical distancing and to follow public health guidelines. Essential businesses including the kiwifruit supply chain will continue to operate under Alert Level 2, however all work must continue to be undertaken under strict Government guidelines and enhanced hygiene practices.
Under Alert Level 3, New Zealanders are advised to stay in their bubbles, work from home where possible, maintain physical distancing and wear a face covering.
Zespri’s priority remains the safety and wellbeing of our people and our communities. Our people have the ability to continue to operate remotely. As an essential service, there will be some exceptions for people who need to come to the office to carry out business critical tasks to help deliver the season. Others will work either remotely or at places like ports and post-harvest facilities to support the successful delivery of the season and the ongoing running of the Zespri business. Strict hygiene requirements will be in place.
5. What advice are you giving your teams offshore at the moment?
Our first priority is the safety and wellbeing of our people and we are following government guidelines in all our markets, as well as our own measures. We are a global business and we’re providing regular updates and advice to our team offshore. A number of our people are working from home, some because of office closures and others by choice, and we’re making increasing use of technology. We’re also working closely with growers and the wider industry on implementing enhanced hygiene standards.
6. Has Zespri halted international travel?
Yes, we have restricted all overseas travel for staff around the world. Prior to the closure of New Zealand’s borders, we had also postponed or cancelled all market and trade tours to or from New Zealand.
7. What does COVID-19 mean for growers?
Under the current New Zealand COVID-19 Alert Levels, food producers, growers and packhouses can continue to operate and are following enhanced hygiene practices. We remain committed to safely delivering this season’s kiwifruit to our global markets. All growers must follow the Government’s strict protocols and ensure any contractors, including harvest workers, are also meeting the current requirements. We expect growers to closely monitor any activity on their orchards (while maintaining appropriate distance).
8. Can you get through this harvest without RSE workers?
Yes, and we’re working with the government on solutions. This is an issue which affects many horticulture and agriculture industries in New Zealand and we need to work together to overcome it.
9. What’s the average wage for a kiwifruit worker these days?
There’s a range of pay rates across the industry, the average picking rate this season is expected to be around $22.50 an hour.
10. How can you keep the fruit safe?
Official agencies such as the WHO, FDA, EFSA, and MPI, agree there is no evidence of COVID-19 being transmitted through fresh produce or fruit packaging. Like everyone else, we follow the official advice on this and will act accordingly to protect our people. Our industry takes food safety incredibly seriously and we have robust food safety procedures in place. The industry is also receiving regular updates on COVID-19 developments and the preventative measures that we can continue to take.
11. What happens if a worker tests positive for COVID-19 within the supply chain?
Official agencies such as the WHO, FDA, EFSA, and MPI agree there is no evidence of COVID-19 being transmitted on fresh produce. If a worker tests positive, like everyone else, we would follow all official advice and act accordingly. The industry is aware of the need to be extra vigilant with hygiene and there are additional measures in place to mitigate the threat of COVID-19. All growers must follow strict protocols and ensure any contractors including harvest workers are also meeting current requirements. We expect growers to closely monitor any activity on their orchards (while maintaining appropriate distance). In the unlikely event a worker tests positive, we have a range of steps we’ll take including isolating the worker and assisting the authorities with any necessary follow-up steps including contact-tracing.
12. Are you taking any additional steps within the supply chain to protect the fruit?
Yes. While we take food safety incredibly seriously and have robust food safety procedures in place, the industry is enforcing enhanced hygiene requirements from orchards right through the supply chain based on advice from the Ministry of Health. We’re operating under strict Government guidelines. All growers must follow these strict protocols and make sure any contractors including harvest workers are also meeting the current requirements. We expect growers to closely monitor any activity on their orchards (while maintaining appropriate distance).