• $1.6bn
    Fruit Industry Contribution to GDP as at 2022
  • $4.2bn
    Export Revenue for Fruit industry year ending June 2022
  • $3.9bn
    Export Revenue forecast for Fruit industry year ending June 2023
  • 26,770
    Individuals worked in Fruit industry across 2020


When Māori arrived in Aotearoa, they brought their knowledge of food growing and a variety of plants that continue to grow today, such as kūmara and tī pore (Pacific cabbage tree). They may have also brought fruits with them, including banana, breadfruit and coconut. However, these crops did not successfully grow in this country’s cooler climates and they learnt to utilise the fruit from native trees such as Poroporo and Karaka. Some fruit had other uses such as flavour enhancement or hair oil. When the missionary Samuel Marsden arrived a few centuries later, in 1819, he brought with him apples and pears. In 2008, a pear tree from this original planting was still growing in Kerikeri. Although initially for domestic consumption, exports started from Christchurch to Chile in 1888. 

By 2022, Aotearoa export revenue for fruit was valued at $4.2 billion. In 2020, we counted 26,770 people in the workforce with 29% of employees on work and work holiday visas. The Fruit industry workforce is highly diverse. In 2020, approximately 21% of the workforce were Pacific peoples, 17% Māori, and 11% Asian, with an estimated 10% of businesses being Māori-owned.      

Like other industries within the food and fibre sector, labour shortages continue to provide challenging conditions for growers, compounded by the seasonality of the work. In 2006, Central Otago locals received funding to trial bringing people from Vanuatu to work in the fruit and viticulture industries, and what later became the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme began, officially coming into effect when the government picked up the scheme in 2007.  

The RSE scheme continues today, but it has not completely solved the ongoing labour shortage challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the fragility of an industry that is heavily reliant on an overseas workforce, and the need to upskill locals in the industry. However, the future is bright. New technologies provide an opportunity for innovation within an industry that still relies heavily on a manual labour force. The Fruit industry is ripe and ready for a highly skilled, and tech-savvy labour workforce to disrupt the industry, increasing productivity and export potential.


We highlight the current key priorities and opportunities for each industry, and links back to the supporting evidence base to show why they have been selected as a priority. These opportunities will be updated on an ongoing basis as our understanding of the industry evolves and deepens.

This is our plan to address the opportunities that arose from our engagement, research and analysis. It includes real actions that we are committed to delivering – these are both industry specific and cross-cutting actions across all industries in the food and fibre sector where common themes emerged.

It includes broader areas or dependencies where external parties will need to provide input into solutions with Muka Tangata support; for example, advocacy, engagement, collaboration, and provision of specific expertise or data. We will work in collaboration with those who will need to take the lead in this area. This section will test potential solutions that we’re working on and seek feedback and input into them.