AFFECTED BY COVID-19?
Employing migrant workers
The Government has a range of border class exceptions in place for the primary industries. Workers who wish to apply for a visa under a border class exception must first be nominated by MPI.
These exemptions assist in addressing immediate and seasonal workforce pressures ahead of a full border reopening, and before the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) opens on 4 July 2022.
Careers in the food and fibre sector
If your job has been affected by COVID-19, check out your options in primary industries like the food and fibre sector.
Forestry offers broad job opportunities
Forestry is a fast-growing sector offering a broad range of career opportunities whether you're just setting out on your career, or looking for a career change with great potential.
Building on our good reputation
New Zealand has a strong reputation for exporting high-quality and sustainable foods and fibres. But we must work hard to adapt if we're to maintain that reputation in a fast-changing world.
Some of the factors redefining how primary industries must work include:
- higher consumer expectations
- a greater focus on sustainability
- new technologies
- an increasingly complex global supply chain.
New Zealand will have to be innovative at every production step if we're going to hold and grow our competitive advantage in the global market.
Succession pathways in horticulture
The horticulture industry has been experiencing strong growth, so it’s important it has clear succession pathways. These will help to ensure the industry is able to continue attracting skilled people and help those retiring from the industry to find suitable replacements.
In 2020, we commissioned a report into financial and business mechanisms that can help people to gain ownership of horticulture businesses or build equity through horticultural careers. Most options in the report can also be applied in other primary sectors.
Successful intergenerational business transition is vital for viability and growth of our sector and businesses. A change in management or ownership is one of the biggest change a business goes through in a generation. It requires choosing the most suitable succession mechanism, and good planning, communication and execution.
Horticulture sector entry and exit pathways [PDF, 1.2 MB]
Report on the skills we need
In 2021, MPI commissioned NZIER to provide a report on the current composition of the forestry and wood processing sector, broken down by key roles and skill levels. Better understanding the workforce composition of the forestry and wood processing sector will enable us to more accurately forecast how the workforce may change over time as the industry becomes more mechanised and uses more technology. It will also enable better forecasting of the skills needed to help transform the industry to add more value to the forestry and wood processing sector. Finally, it will help inform current and future actions around attracting, upskilling, and retaining people.
2021 Forestry and wood processing labour force survey [PDF, 1.4 MB]
In 2018 Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service, the Forest Owners Association, and the Forest Industry Contractors Association surveyed the commercial silviculture and harvesting sector. The aim of this work was to better understand industry labour requirements for 2019, and to learn what the industry thinks are the main reasons for labour shortages.
2019 forestry labour requirements survey [PDF, 1.4 MB]
Silviculture labour requirements survey summary [PDF, 364 KB]
An MPI report completed in 2014 also identified the types of skills needed for the primary industries.
Future capability needs for primary industries [PDF, 3.9 MB]
People powered – summary of key findings [PDF, 1.8 MB]
Jobs becoming more specialised
The future of work in the primary industries will be more specialised than it has been in the past. This is driven by:
- sophisticated technologies
- a growing market in Asia
- critical issues around food safety, biosecurity, sustainability, and animal welfare.
Workers in the primary industries will often need non-traditional skills such as language and cultural understanding.
Food and Fibre Workforce Snapshot
The Food and Fibre Workforce Snapshot has been developed by the Primary Sector Workforce Dataset and Forecasting Working Group of industry and government. It is part of our commitment to grow our knowledge base and contribute to the Knowledge outcome in the Food and Fibre Skills Action Plan 2019–2022 and the Forestry and Wood Processing Skills Action Plan 2020–2024.
This report draws on the best available data to paint a picture of the food and fibre workforce. It also draws together what we know about the current workforce. Much of the data is created from a combination of databases maintained by Stats NZ for which the 2019 year is the most recent available, prior to the impact of COVID-19.
Food and fibre workforce: Snapshot – Report [PDF, 4.9 MB]
Food and Fibre Workforce Snapshot data
The data in the snapshot has been made available in three files:
- Workforce counts and location [XLSX, 180 KB]
- Educational qualifications [XLSX, 288 KB]
- Demographic information [XLSX, 366 KB]
The data has previously been published in a different form as part of the human capability in the primary industries data packs.
Key facts about the food and fibre sector workforce
The food and fibre workforce is large and has many different roles and skill requirements. Producing food and fibre means managing complex biological, food safety, and logistic systems and being able to respond to and meet consumer needs.
In 2019 the food and fibre sector employed 367,000 people, 1 in 7 of the New Zealand workforce. This includes:
- 108,000 people employed in production
- 146,000 people employed in processing and commercialisation, for example, dairy, meat or seafood processing, wood processing and wholesale products
- 113,000 people employed in support services for example road freight or veterinarians.
How the food and fibre workforce compares to the New Zealand workforce
The food and fibre workforce is broadly similar to the New Zealand workforce in terms of age, ethnicity, and education. The food and fibre workforce is not as gender balanced as the New Zealand workforce with a higher proportion of men. The demographics of the workforce also varies across sectors and regions, which highlights areas with potential gains from improving diversity.
When will the data be updated?
The data will be updated annually.
Food and fibre skills action plan
To ensure the food and fibre sector has the workforce it needs, the Primary Industries Skills Leaders Working Group has developed the Food and fibre skills action plan 2019–2022.
This is a critical step towards addressing the challenges food and fibre employers have attracting, training, and retaining a diverse range of people with the right skills.
The proposed actions initially focus on the agriculture and horticulture industries, including meat and dairy processing. They do not cover the fishing or forestry sectors (forestry will have its own action plan released in 2020) or other processing industries. However, close connections and shared challenges are recognised across all food and fibre sectors.
Food and fibre skills action plan 2019–2022 [PDF, 3.1 MB]
Summary of the action plan 2019–2022 [PDF, 414 KB]
Robust governance, management, and funding arrangements are required to successfully implement the action plan and ensure that food and fibre skills needs are met.
To achieve this, the action plan proposes the establishment of a food and fibre skills partnership group. This will oversee the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the action plan.
In the interim, an industry-led establishment group has been set up to engage with the wider food and fibre sector, government, and Māori stakeholders to progress the plan.
- Beef + Lamb New Zealand
- Federated Farmers
- Forestry Industry Contractors Association (FICA)
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)
- Ministry of Education (MoE)
- Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
- New Zealand Institute of Primary Industry Management (NZIPIM)
- New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association (NZSCA)
- New Zealand Apples & Pears
- New Zealand Wine
- New Zealand Young Farmers
- Primary Industry Capability Alliance (PICA)
- Primary ITO
- Primary Sector Council
- Seafood New Zealand
- Tertiary Education Commission (TEC)
Forestry and wood processing workforce action plan 2020-2024
The action plan aims to support the development of a skilled, safe, diverse workforce. It was developed by the government and industry in 2019.
The forest industry includes:
- planting and tree maintenance
- wood treatment operators.
A plan to achieve workforce goals
The sector is facing a number of workforce challenges. We can achieve our goals by working together and building on initiatives already underway and starting some new projects.
The Forestry and Wood Processing Workforce Council will oversee the action plan. But all parts of the industry need to be involved in making the plan happen.
The council will work with the Food and Fibre Skills Establishment Group. This group is working on the Food and fibre skills action plan. Together, they'll look at workforce actions that benefit all primary sector industries.
Summary of the action plan 2020-2024 [PDF, 464 KB]
The Forestry and Wood Processing Workforce Working Group
To ensure the forestry and wood processing sector has the workforce it needs now and in the future, Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service formed the Forestry and Wood Processing Workforce Working Group. This group of industry leaders is helping us formulate a plan of action to attract, train, and retain the skilled workforce the forestry and wood processing sector needs.
The role of the working group
The working group was formed to develop a workforce action plan for the forestry and wood processing sector.
The working group members
The working group is chaired by MPI, who also provides secretariat support. The working group is made up of industry organisations and government agencies with interest and expertise in forestry and wood processing sector skills. The members include:
- Sharon Cox, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
- Alfred Duval, Future Foresters
- David Evison, School of Forestry, University of Canterbury and New Zealand Institute of Forestry
- Ruth Fairhall, (chair, May to August 2019), Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service
- Fraser Field, Rayonier Matariki Forests
- Jivan Grewal, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
- Jeff Ilott, New Zealand Timber Industry Federation
- Richard Lynch, Ministry for Primary Industries
- Glen Mackie, New Zealand Forest Owners Association
- Mark Preece, Competenz
- Antonia Reid, (chair, September to December 2019), Ministry for Primary Industries
- Thea Wallace, Ministry for Primary Industries
- Prue Younger, Forest Industry Contractors Association
The primary industries and MPI share a common goal of increasing export returns by 2025. To help reach that goal we'll need more skilled people in the primary industries.
To see how the primary industry workforce is changing, MPI analysed human capabilities in the primary industries between 2004 and 2019.
In 2021 we published some fact sheets highlighting statistics about the workforce. These looked at factors including qualifications, gender, diversity, and retention rates.
Fact sheets: Primary industries workforce [PDF, 411 KB]
MPI publishes or funds teacher resources and classroom activities each year. These focus on the primary industries, biosecurity, and food safety. We put together sets of learning activities that teachers can use for subjects like mathematics, science, social studies, and technology.