The arrival of Covid-19 meant a challenging year for all those involved in the horticulture sector.
Seasonal labour supply was constrained due to Covid and border closures that disrupted the 14,000-strong Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workforce. Labour became the largest obstacle for most growers.
Industry stepped up and worked collaboratively to attract New Zealanders through incentives and campaigns. However, there remained a paucity of New Zealanders able to fill such roles, due to the seasonal nature of the work and family commitments.
There were multiple challenges in the environment space too. To protect grower interests, HortNZ engaged with local government on multiple plan changes, engaged with central government on climate change and freshwater requirements, and advocated for recognition of highly productive horticultural land and its importance in feeding our nation fresh, healthy food.
Despite the testing circumstances, the sector adapted quickly, became more resilient, and banded together to ensure the best possible outcome for all.
Regular engagement between HortNZ, product groups, government and stakeholders ensured the sector continued to function as an essential industry during the first, New Zealand-wide lockdown. Engagement continued beyond lockdown to inform the sector's adaptation, growth and development in a post-Covid world.
HortNZ made more than 60 submissions on behalf of growers over the 2020/21 period, advocating for an environment in which growers thrive and provide fresh and healthy food for all, forever.
The sector has continued to experience growth, with total export and domestic figures increasing by 73.45% in the last decade, tipping horticulture's worth to $6.73 billion. Strong growth in processed vegetables and kiwifruit was experienced in the last year.
As we sign off on this financial year, we would like to express our thanks to all growers and the wider horticulture sector for their ongoing commitment and passion.