New Zealand fruit growers are still stretched for labor. That is why they are desperately seeking a Pacific bubble for workers as demand for MIQ allocations outstrip supply. Experts fear more than 3 million cartons of fruit will to go waste.
Apple and pear orchards have large blocks of fruit still sitting on trees in Hawkes Bay, weeks before pruning season starts. "It looks a bit depressing, really,” NZ Apples and Pears chief executive Allan Pollard says. If the predicted 3 million cartons of unpicked fruit indeed go to waste, ‘that's upwards of $130 million”, according to Pollard.
Some of those losses have been due to poor weather, but the bulk has been due to being unable to harvest on time. The first of 2000 Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme workers entered managed isolation in January, bumping up the available workforce to 7000. Typically the industry has 14,400 workers under the scheme every year.
Pollard says growers have been working hard to get their workers through MIQ allocations. Pollard fears by March 2022, more RSE workers will be leaving than coming into the country under the current allocations.
Pollard says there has to be a better way of bringing more people in. “In the immediate future there is no reason we can't be getting workers from countries where there is no COVID and wrap a vaccination plan around them.”
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