Despite the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 the horticultural sector in Hawke’s Bay and the workers, including RSE workers, who support it have successfully wrapped up this year’s harvest.
Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the sector, including viticulture and other crops, and its workers were a vital contributor to the district’s economy and congratulated all involved for continuing to operate within the COVID-19 restrictions.
“To have managed to harvest our crops in difficult circumstances is testament to the good management and dedication of those involved with the harvest.
“These sectors are going to be extremely important as we move into the recovery phase and as a council we will continue to do whatever we can to support the industry.”
For the apple and pear sector alone, 2020 saw one of the largest crops ever produced with some of the best quality ever seen.
Some 400,000 tonnes of fruit was harvested for the season, 273,000 tonnes of which would be exported.
“That represents a value to the Hawke’s Bay economy of $582 million, a figure that with the right support could be tripled by 2030”, said New Zealand Apples and Pears (NZAP) Manager of Trade Policy and Strategy, Gary Jones.
NZAP Chief Executive, Alan Pollard, said the apple and pear industry quickly adapted to the COVID-19 response, particularly the move to alert level 4.
“As an essential service, the industry was able to continue to operate but with strict hygiene and social distancing practices in place”, he said.
“That was particularly challenging for our pack house operations, but in the space of two or so weeks we had completely re-engineered an industry that nationally generates $1b in revenue and employs more than 3,000 permanent and 12,000 seasonal staff – that has been a tremendous achievement.”
Mr Pollard said that, alongside our hard working and skilled New Zealand workforce, RSE workers are an important part of the success story of the industry, and both will play a critical role as horticulture leads New Zealand’s post COVID-19 recovery.
Their incredibly hard work enables us to have confidence that our crop can be harvested, and gives confidence for the industry to continue to invest and grow, which in turn creates real permanent jobs for New Zealanders.”
The RSE scheme has also been an important part of New Zealand’s contribution to Pacific Island development, he added.
“The money that RSE workers earn in New Zealand is re-invested back in their home countries. These earnings have transformed the health, wealth and well-being of families and communities”.
Hastings District Council had planned, along with a number of employers, to celebrate the horticultural industry and its workers with a Harvest Festival in April this year, celebrating the diversity of the workforce.
Unfortunately due to COVID-19 this had to be postponed until further notice.