The kiwifruit industry in New Zealand could be relying less on the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme to provide imported labour for this year's harvest.
The export season is off to an early start, with the first gold kiwifruit shipment on the way to Japan, ahead of schedule and almost two weeks earlier than last year.
Growers have also started picking the first of the mainstream green kiwifruit variety.
The kiwifruit marketer Zespri's chief executive, Lain Jager says the industry will be using fewer Pacific workers under the RSE scheme than last season, because more unemployed local people are available.
"We would have to say the RSE scheme is still important to us although we are using slight lower levels of off shore labour than in the past just reflecting the increased availability of labour here in New Zealand."