According to a Hawke's Bay grower, approximately 12 million apples will likely rot on his trees because of Covid-19 disruptions.
Yummy Apples general manager Paul Paynter said last week was right up there with the most stressful he had experienced in the industry, including the March 1994 Hawke's Bay hailstorm which caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage.
"It was the worst week I can remember and we were all in an extremely stressful situation with the weather rigours and trying to make sure we comply with the Covid-19 restrictions," Paynter said. "Our shipping has been disrupted, particularly China. The customers are fearful, fruit markets are closed. It is not good for business. There is a disruption to the supply chain - 6000 bins, at 2000 apples per bin, will stay in the orchards and won't get harvested.”
Yummy Apples' packhouse is now operating at 60 per cent capacity, Paynter said. "Everyone operating within the packhouse has to maintain the two metre distance rule.”
He said workers at the orchard had to maintain their distances and people were "spread far and wide". "Our crop is 10 per cent bigger than we thought, and we have 20 per cent less shipping. It's a logistical crisis. Our New Zealand sales are weird. Two weeks ago we had record sales, when people were panic buying, our biggest sales. Now we have less than usual sales. It is hard to forecast what the future would look like."
He said while the orchard had enough manual labour, they were in need of skilled labour, like forklift drivers, quality controllers, lines supervisors and other skilled labour.