22 Mar 2016

Rosy start to apple season

3:20 pm on 22 March 2016

The apple season is in full swing, and excellent fruit size and quality, have Pipfruit New Zealand tipping a record crop.

RSE worker offloads apples into a crate in a Hawke's Bay orchard.

An RSE worker unloads apples into a crate in a Hawke's Bay orchard. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

But business development manager Gary Jones said it was the latest start to the season anyone could remember but orchards were now flat-out harvesting.

"Although the season was late we have exported more fruit than we ever have before and places like the Napier Port are saying they've handled more apples at the same date than they have had in any other season.

"The fruit has been spectacular ... it's as a good a crop as we've ever put out."

However, the industry was struggling to find enough people to pick the crop off the trees, Mr Jones said.

"We are taking a lot more New Zealanders and a large number of Pacific Islanders we have brought in under the Recognised Seasonal Employers' scheme, and we've increased those numbers this year but we're expecting a huge jump next year.

"Unless we get some more workers, next year is going to be a real challenge for us."

Orchards were making up the shortfall in workers this year by having employees work six or seven days a week, which was not ideal, he said.

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