New Zealand labour shortages dampened what was otherwise a good top fruit season in Hawke's Bay. Sector chairman Ben James said smaller growers who did not qualify for RSE labour found it especially hard. Full employment in Hawke's Bay and a shortage of backpackers who found Hawke's Bay too expensive to live in while they worked did not help, he said.
Nor did problems with transferring holiday visas into work visas after a labour shortage was declared in late February. Workers wanting to renew their visas had to pay twice and could not work while their application was in the queue.
"This is not a good message to send to backpackers. We need to make Hawke's Bay financially attractive to them," James said. The rapid expansion of the apple industry in Hawke's Bay did not help the situation, he added.
The crop itself was down in volume. This was due to the fact that fruits were smaller, caused in turn by wet weather around Christmas and warm nights over the growing season.
Another concern for the industry was the amount of top-class growing soil disappearing under housing, James said. "It's a concern for all growing industries in Hawke's Bay."