Addressing Labor Shortages in New Zealand's Agriculture and Horticulture Industry

New Zealand's agriculture industry is facing a labor shortage due to border closures. Explore the impacts and solutions.
Written by
Last Updated On April 27, 2023
Contributors: Denise Renshaw. Edited By Yongtian Liu & Reviewed by Inder Singh.

The agriculture and horticulture industry is the largest industry in New Zealand, generating 70% of the country's merchandise export earnings and 12% of its GDP. However, the industry is currently facing labor shortages due to border closures that have prevented the entry of migrant workers, who typically make up a significant portion of the workforce. This shortage is leading to concerns about the impact on the industry's productivity and profitability.


The labor shortage has affected various crops, including vegetables, berries, summer fruit, pip fruit, kiwifruit, and wine. The shortage has been attributed to the closure of New Zealand's borders, which has prevented the usual influx of migrant workers. Additionally, the industry's growth and expansion have led to increasing demands for labor.

Measures taken by the Government: To address the shortage, the government has announced several measures, including:

  • Increasing the number of visas for overseas workers
  • Allowing border exemptions for critical workers
  • Offering financial incentives to attract domestic workers to the industry

Benefits of hiring migrants: While the labor shortage is a challenge for the industry, there are potential benefits to hiring migrants, including:

  1. Addressing immediate labor shortages: Migrants can help fill immediate labor gaps, particularly in regions where there are few domestic workers available.
  2. Diverse skills and experiences: Migrants bring diverse skills, experiences, and perspectives to the workplace, which can enhance productivity and innovation.
  3. Language skills: Migrants may have language skills that are beneficial in serving diverse customers or clients.
  4. Cultural understanding: Migrants can provide valuable insights into different cultures, helping to foster better understanding and relationships with customers or clients from diverse backgrounds.
  5. Long-term workforce development: Hiring migrants can also contribute to the development of a long-term, sustainable workforce, particularly if they are provided with training and opportunities for career advancement.

Impact on Productivity and Profitability

The labor shortage is expected to have a significant impact on the industry's productivity and profitability. Without sufficient labor, crops may be left unpicked, leading to significant losses for farmers and a potential increase in food prices for consumers. The shortage has also led to some employees quitting to seek higher pay or better working conditions.


In conclusion, the labor shortage is having a significant impact on New Zealand's agriculture and horticulture industry. While the government has announced measures to address the shortage, the industry may continue to face challenges in the short term. 

It is crucial to monitor the situation closely and implement long-term solutions to ensure the industry's sustainability and profitability. Hiring migrants can be a potential solution to address the immediate labor shortage and contribute to the long-term development of a sustainable workforce.