17 Mar 2009

Challenging harvest season for apple growers

8:53 am on 17 March 2009

Hawke's Bay apple growers say a combination of a compressed harvest period and competition for labour from vineyards will make conditions challenging over the next few weeks.

Hawke's Bay Fruitgrowers' Association says a bumper apple crop this year means there'll be a huge peak in the coming weeks. The fruit will need to be picked en masse as it is maturing quickly.

Ru Collin, who owns an orchard west of Hastings that employs more than 50 people, says there is traditionally a gap between the end of picking Royal Gala apples, which make up 40% of the region's export crop, and the start of picking the Braeburn crop which makes up 30%.

Mr Collin says a hotter than usual summer means that gap has closed, and with more grape growers opting for hand harvesting rather than machine harvesting, the demand for labour is quite tight.

He says there will be more promotion of the region and the industry to attract staff.