Fruit pickers say poor pay is the main reason for a severe nationwide shortage of workers as the crucial picking seasons looms for growers.
The industry agrees pay rates can sometimes be modest, but says low unemployment in New Zealand, along with fewer working tourists and difficulty getting foreign labour, is also putting them at risk of heavy losses from spoiled fruit.
Industry figures spoke out earlier this week in the Herald about their fears that fruit would go unpicked in the crucial peak harvesting days because of the worker shortage.
A number of people contacted the Herald in response, saying the fruit growers could solve the problem by simply paying more.
"I know of quite a few people who would work picking, but most growers offer the bare minimum wage so it's not worth travelling for the jobs," one worker said. "Costs of accommodation and travel tend to be excessive, so the low wages definitely do not attract people."
Another person said he picked up hitchhikers returning from picking in the Hastings area who had vowed never to do it again.
"Asked why not, their response was bad pay, and there seemed to be a charge from the orchards for everything to keep them there on a daily basis, right from tent space to washing and food preparation facilities. So the upshot was [from] what little they earned, a big chunk was paid back to the orchard for the privilege of picking their fruit."
Jerf van Beek, of Horticulture New Zealand, said the type of work and small margins in fruit growing meant starting rates were often low.
But if workers were prepared to get through training in the first two or three days, there was good money to be made - sometimes $25 to $30 an hour.
He said workers had a lot of bargaining power if they weren't happy.
"They can just walk out and have a word with the grower ... and it's better than a unionised place," Mr van Beek said. "It's a matter of sticking it out and putting in the hours. But not everyone is physically able to do it."
ON THE MONEY
Average: $15 an hour for apple pickers.
Top rates: Up to $30 an hour for fast workers.
Daily average: About $100 to $120.