Apple harvest at risk due to lack of workers

Hawke's Bay apple growers urgently want more apple pickers and are pleading with the Government to make changes to labour laws to help them. 

The busy apple season is just weeks away and while there's plenty of fruit, there's not enough people to pick them.

Paul Paynter from Yummy Fruit said the industry could lose tens of millions of dollars' worth of apples if they can't find the help. 

"I honestly  think we're going to leave some fruit on the trees this year," he said.

"We'll prioritise the ones of the highest value and quality, maybe as an industry we could leave 50 - 60 million dollars' worth of apples on the trees if we can't find the people to harvest it," said Mr Paynter.

Apple growers are calling for the Government declare a seasonal labour shortage to loosen rules around hiring overseas help. 

Regional Economic Development Shane Jones isn't promising a quick fix.

"The concerns of orchard growers and investors are genuine, but we will have to wait and take advice from social welfare experts," he said.

But growers say they don't have time on their side and with the season short and sharp, they need people ready to go. 

Bostock growers labour development manager Vikki Garrett said the need is urgent.

"We need to have these people helping us get the fruit off the trees," she said.

"We need people on tourists on to working visa, but it takes time to do this, there would be gratitude to the Government if they could do this right now."