Unemployment 'so low' there aren't enough people to pick apples

  • 10/01/2019

There are calls for the Government to declare a seasonal worker shortage ahead of bumper harvests.

New Zealand Apples and Pears is expecting a record harvest of 600,000 tonnes of fruit, and National horticulture spokesperson Lawrence Yule says the Government needs to act quickly.

"What most people don't understand is many of these crops have a two-week window for picking - if you miss that they're either not suitable for export, or they're significantly less valuable," he told Newshub.

"Particularly valuable crops - particularly such as Envy, where the crops are huge - you can't wait until you run out of labour, then try and source them."

Mr Yule says a solution needs to be found by the end of January ahead of the harvest. He says fruit will lose value if they aren't picked in time.

"It's not just a one-off either, because with unemployment so low and with massive increases in plantings, this is likely to be an ongoing issue."

Unemployment is currently at 3.9 percent, the lowest it's been in a decade.

Mr Yule says visas should be fast-tracked for people wanting to work in the industry, as there aren't enough locals to pitch in.

Apple-picking season hits its stride in February.

"That increase in Hawke's Bay alone, for example, is around 500 more workers just to pick the increase," NZ Apples and Pears spokesperson Gary Jones told TVNZ earlier this month.

The Government is presently looking at legislation to make it easier for businesses to get migrant workers in times of shortage.