Wednesday, 03 August 2022 08:25

Heartbreaking season as fruit left to rot

Written by  David Anderson
Growers have described the fruit left unpicked due to lack of labour as heartbreaking. Growers have described the fruit left unpicked due to lack of labour as heartbreaking.

"Heart-breaking" is how growers are describing the waste of fruit left unpicked to rot due to lack of labour - made worse by Covid.

Low worker numbers have seen harvesting down 15% with unpicked fruit rotting on the trees or on the ground.

Hawke's Bay Fruitgrowers Association Graeme Hodges says it's the worst season he's seen in years.

"The labour shortage has certainly been exacerbated by the prevalence of Covid amongst the teams."

Hodges says labour shortages have affected all areas from pickers through to truck drivers.

"I probably haven't seen some of the private growers look so glum as they did in the season just gone.

"It's been on the back of three very tough years, but you know that old Kiwi adage, we just sort of grin and bear it, but this year we can't hide the results - they're out there hanging on the tree," he adds.

"We didn't necessarily have enough people and, sadly, Covid's affected us all and I guess those of us who were lucky enough to get the fruit off the trees, it's been really hard post-harvest as well because we're short of truck drivers. We're short of trucks," Hodges explains.

"It's been an impact on the entire nation, just ours is a little bit more visible now that we've got into winter and our leaves are on the ground."

He says it's heartbreaking for those growers who had to make tough decisions to leave the fruit to rot because they didn't have enough staff to get to everything.

"We work for 364 days just to have that one shot to harvest that fruit, and it's heart-breaking, not just for us as growers, but for our teams."

Hodges has nothing but praise for the workers and teams in orchards around the country who "put in a whole heap of mahi" to get the fruit to that stage.

"For us to have to make decisions to leave that behind because we simply can't get to it is distressing for us."

Hodges says the solution to the problem was employing more staff but a lack of housing means that isn't possible.

"We can jump up and down and tell everyone to come to Hawke's Bay, Nelson or Central Otago with our main apple-growing regions, but if the places aren't there to accommodate them, what do we do?"

More like this

'Find your fit' campaign launched

A new recruitment campaign called ‘Find Your Fit in Forestry’ has been launched with the aim of drawing attention to the varied career opportunities available in the forestry industry.

Right time and right Place(ment)

With labour shortages a grim reality for many farmers across the country - and no end in sight - recruitment agencies have seen demand increase drastically.


Machinery & Products

It pays to automate!

With the hort industry struggling to attract staff at key times of the growing season, many businesses are taking the…

New tech sizes-up fruit

NZ agritech company Hectre and its Spectre app are delivering fruit size and colour data to US packers and growers…

One-pass, four-row planting

The latest version of root crop specialist Grimme’s GL420 Exacta potato planter offers four-row planting in 90cm row widths.

Auto packer saves time, labour

New fruit packing technology – developed by a NZ company – is said to be dramatically reducing packhouse labour needs.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Full of it!

OPINION: Your old mate was told about some research that proves that what consumers claim and what they actually do…

A better deal?

OPINION: This old mutt has been contacted by a number of members of rural insurer FMG expressing concern about the…

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter