The first cohort of Samoan Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers brought into New Zealand to help with the apple harvest has arrived in Hawke's Bay ready to start picking on Tuesday.
Hawke's Bay Today understands the group of over 150 Samoans were going through induction and contract-signing processes on Monday, having completed their 14 days quarantine in managed isolation facilities on Sunday.
Groups of similar size will complete their isolation periods on Thursday, next Monday and next Friday - a little under a third of the 2000 additional RSE workers the Government is allowing into the country.
That will bring New Zealand's total RSE workforce to between 7000 and 8000, well shy of the 10,500 or so workers that orchardists would normally expect in the country at this time of year.
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New Zealand Apples and Pears chief executive Alan Pollard said the industry remains increasingly concerned about access to a reliable labour workforce.
"We would normally expect up to 50,000 working holiday visa holders to be available throughout the picking season. Now, that's around 13,000 workers," he said.
"As an industry, we're doing all we can to attract Kiwis to work but we are just one of many sectors in New Zealand facing serious labour constraints. Even with the financial incentives the Government is offering, labour mobility remains a considerable problem for orchardists."
The gross national crop estimate is 558,672 metric tonnes – 5 per cent down on 2020.
However, Hawke's Bay's crop is 2 per cent greater than last year.