$300 a day for fruit picking? Potential goldmine for Hawke’s Bay workers as growers up wages

A potential goldmine for those who want to pick in Hawke’s Bay orchards this autumn awaits, as growers dangle the carrot to get workers.

Orchards have struggled to get workers this year because of the lack of RSE workers and backpackers currently in New Zealand due to Covid-19 border restrictions.

Many contractors and orchards are still searching for workers, Hawke’s Bay Today has been told of offers from some growers of $50 a bin for pickers.

Bins, once full, contain 400kg of picked fruit.

General consensus in the industry is that the most skilled and fit pickers have been known to pick up to six bins a day, which at that rate would earn them $300 before tax for a day’s work.

Matipou Orchard Ltd employee Robin Singh said last season’s rates were lower than what is being offered rightnow.

“We paid $40 dollars a bin last year and some people even paid $45,” he said.

Singh said the Hastings orchard needs 110 staff for picking purposes, but they currently have around 80 workers including contractors.

He added that there are nerves within the industry.

“Everybody knows this is going to be a hard season. I guess we’ll find out when we get into it,” he said.

The picking season is set to get properly under way towards the end of February for most apple types.

A New Zealand Apples and Pears spokeswoman said Hawke’s Bay’s apple companies are pushing on.

“All of their efforts are going into trying to get as many people on the ground as they possibly can,” she said.

Hawke’s Bay’s crop estimate is also predicted to be 2 per cent greater than last year.

However, the national crop estimate is 558,672 metric tonneswhich is5 per cent down on 2020.

To help with get more people picking in New Zealand’s fruit bowl the Hastings District Council is hosting another Pick the Bay employment expo today, to help with the search for more employees.

The drop-in session for job seekers wanting information on horticulture and viticulture jobs attracted more than 500 people through the doors last November, according to an HDC spokeswoman.

“With the picking season about to get under way, the sector urgently needs more local heroes for picking, packing and processing the region’s world-renowned produce,” she said.

You can drop into Pick the Bay to find out more about the host of jobs available at Toitoi,Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre from 12pm to 2pm and 4pm to 6pm.

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