Alan Pollard, Chief Executive, New Zealand Apples & Pears
Although the 2021 selling season continues, the industry has turned its attention to the 2021/22 growing season.
If there are no significant weather events, such as the severe hail that impacted Nelson and Central Otago at the end of 2020, our estimate is that across New Zealand there will be an additional 115,000 metric tonnes of pipfruit to harvest over what was available to harvest in the 2020/21 growing season, which will require an additional 2,000 workers over the number that were required for the previous year. Clearly, faced with that prospect, something has to change and change quickly.
NZAPI has long argued that there is no sense in bringing in workers from COVID free Pacific countries, and putting them into the one place in New Zealand where we know there is COVID – MIQ facilities. A vaccination programme coupled with the COVID free status should enable the freer movement of RSE workers across our border.
The government has also signalled that it expects all industries to develop an Industry Transition Plan (ITP), which sets out how an industry will transition to a high productivity high wage environment. Having an ITP will be a prerequisite for an industry unlocking sufficient seasonal labour in the short term while transitioning in the medium to longer term. An ITP addresses such things as attracting and retaining talent, training and growing talent, accessing sufficient seasonal labour, and developing and adopting technology and best practice. In the case of the apple pear and nashi industry, these are all areas that are already receiving attention by NZAPI and our members. NZAPI is the first industry association to respond to the government’s challenge, and draft an ITP. We are currently consulting with industry members and government agencies on the draft, and are looking to finalise the document in the next couple of weeks.
We continue to work with Ministers and officials to try and get some certainty for growers for the coming season. With vaccinations being rolled, recognising the COVID free status of much of the Pacific Islands, and our commitment to transformation in accordance with our ITP, there is no reason why that certainty couldn’t be given now.
Watch this space!!