Hawke’s Bay apple grower and owner of Yummy Fruit Company Paul Paynter has been pulling up trees and dropping orchard leases as he is faced with not having enough labor to pick his crops.
Mid harvest, Paynter says he is still short about 140 pickers and he is losing more every week. He estimated the region was short about 13,000 workers to complete the apple harvest. This will cost the regional economy some $100 million.
The effects of the government's policy to limit the number of exemptions for Registered Seasonal Employers (RSE) workers, mainly from the Pacific Islands, to just 2000 this year has hit home for growers. Government initiatives to attract kiwis had not proved effective, Paynter said.
Grower Dave Llewellyn said he would leave about 15 per cent of his crop behind because of staff shortages. It would be uneconomic to do a second pick and hard to find the staff to do it.
Apples and Pears chief executive Alan Pollard said despite not yet being at the peak of harvest, “it's fate is pretty well sealed” as growers made tough decisions about what fruit to pick and what fruit to leave on the tree.
Stuff.co.nz reports that, overall, Hawke's Bay growers were probably getting 70 per cent of the potential crop. The remaining 30 per cent were either getting left on the tree or would be used in juice or food processing, for smaller returns.
Photo source: Dreamstime.com