Former journey agent turns Covid lemons into lemonade with new kiwifruit function


Jeffrey Benfell pivoted from travel agent to human resources for the Bay of Plenty kiwifruit industry during lockdown.


Jeffrey Benfell pivoted from journey agent to human assets for the Bay of Loads kiwifruit trade throughout lockdown.

When Jeffrey Benfell was made redundant after 20 years within the journey trade simply as Covid-19 hit, he didn’t waste time searching for his subsequent alternative.

Benfell made a name to a buddy who then launched him to a contact at Apata, a Bay of Loads kiwifruit post-harvest operator.

He was employed as a human assets assistant and began work on March 23, simply because the nation went into alert degree three.

“The kiwifruit trade has at all times been one of many mainstays of the Bay of Loads space. I knew there can be not less than seasonal work in a pack home, and I used to be fortunate that it is labored out to be greater than seasonal.”

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The first sector has continued to supply employment all through the Covid disaster, the place others have been closing doorways.

Benfell began within the journey trade in London, the place met his Czech spouse, Jana. Ultimately, the couple and their two children Nicholas and Amy headed again to New Zealand and settled in Tauranga in 2007.

Working in journey, he stored an in depth on eye on information reviews, and when Covid-19 started to have an effect on increasingly nations, he knew it could solely be a matter of time earlier than New Zealand was affected.

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“I bear in mind when the tales have been first breaking in late October 2019, and I assumed, that is going to be so much worse than lots of people are considering,” he mentioned.

However Benfell had already been within the strategy of searching for a brand new job and the profession change wasn’t as daunting because it may need been.

Dominico Zapata/Stuff

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The primary few days at Apata have been “fairly chaotic”, spent planning how the corporate would implement social distancing necessities.

His new function covers the total scope of human assets, from recruitment to attendance. Now Benfell is able to assist others who misplaced their jobs on account of Covid-19.

“If somebody wants a job, or is struggling, we will take care of them. There have been just a few individuals throughout the lockdown interval who actually did have to get into the kiwifruit trade [to support themselves], and we have been capable of welcome them with open arms.”

Kiwifruit is the largest fresh horticultural export worth $2.3 billion to the New Zealand economy last year.


Kiwifruit is the most important recent horticultural export price $2.three billion to the New Zealand financial system final 12 months.

Apata specialises in kiwifruit and avocados, and since it has each crops it might preserve individuals employed for 10 months a 12 months within the pack home, he mentioned.

The energy of New Zealand’s horticulture trade meant there was long-term certainty for individuals taking jobs within the sector.

Apata had operations in each Katikati and Te Puke, and was one of many industries largest absolutely built-in post-harvest opeartors, offering growers with their pack, coolstore and cargo amenities.

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“Nearly anybody can work in some capability in kiwifruit. For stackers, it is fairly a bodily demanding job. For graders, it is mentally centered. And for tray preparation and packers, it takes quite a lot of talent, thought and pace,” he mentioned.

Kiwifruit is the most important recent horticultural export, price $2.three billion to the New Zealand financial system final 12 months and growers bought 164 million trays of kiwifruit into greater than 50 markets.


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