Labour issues will be the key focus for Summerfruit NZ's new chief executive Kate Hellstrom during the coming 12 months.
Due to the pandemic, a lack of backpackers and RSE workers created concern that there would be a shortage of people keen on working in the regions to supplement local workers at harvest time.
Summerfruit NZ collaborated with Ministry of Social Development (MSD), Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), other organisations, councils and HortNZ to raise public awareness of the shortage through the Handpicked and Opportunity Grows campaigns.
Richard Palmer, Summerfruit NZ’s chief executive, says he is thankful that New Zealanders have stepped up and responded in greater numbers than hoped for.
“The response overall across the summerfruit regions of Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough and Central Otago has been fantastic and many growers and packers have received far more applications than they would normally expect at this time of year,” Palmer said.
However, there are still orchards that are having difficulty in attracting sufficient numbers of people.
“Keeping people on board for the full cherry crop and then the other summerfruit crops is a major concern,” he said.
Palmer says that, previously, students have worked through to mid to late January with international backpackers taking over.
“We need to make sure the incentives are there to keep people employed as long as the work is available,” he said.
Summerfruit NZ says it expects that the recent appointment of Tracey Mansfield as the new Central Otago seasonal labour coordinator will help smooth the fluctuations in demand for workers.