With the peak of the season only weeks away, concern is spreading there will not be enough workers to harvest Hawke's Bay's "bumper apple crop".
Hawke's Bay Seasonal Labour Group chair Gary Jones said the industry was flat out getting every apple picked at the perfect time.
"Hawke's Bay needs a workforce of more than 12,000 people to fill permanent and seasonal jobs so we can harvest our export crop," he said.
"Demand for labour is very high as the season comes on. With the Hawke's Bay economy booming, the region has 3300 less unemployed this season, that's a drop of 36 per cent".
Hawke's Bay Fruitgrowers association president Lesley Wilson said reduced unemployment figures were "good for Hawke's Bay, but not good for our industry".
With fewer people looking for jobs, and a lack of accommodation meaning there were fewer backpackers around over summer, horticulturalists were starting to feel the pinch.
"There's huge demand at the moment. We've got a huge crop coming on and the peak of it will be in two to three weeks, so we're putting the word out there that we need more people coming through.
To be proactive, she said their organisation and New Zealand Apples and Pears were running a job recruitment drive with employment opportunities for hundreds of workers.
At this stage, Ms Wilson said they did not know exactly how many workers were needed, but "we'll take whoever turns up".
"The season's looking fabulous, we just want to be able to get the crop off the trees and in the bins," she said. "It's a worry."
The industry contributes about $500 million to the local economy.
The priority was getting people registered with the labour team at PickNZ's Hastings office in Stortford Lodge, which was open daily. From there, the team would match them to a job so they could start as soon as possible.
Meeting seasonal labour demand is always challenging for the apple industry because fruit must be picked within a short timeframe to ensure a premium export product of the best freshness, quality and size.
"For every 3.1ha we plant there is another full time job and we are planting another 350ha every year," Mr Jones said.
"It's fantastic that our industry has been steadily growing fulltime jobs and recruiting people into permanent employment which is a big focus. But to grow these fulltime jobs we must get our apples picked, which requires thousands of seasonal workers."
He said starting a job was a "great and proven way to get into the industry with many of those who start in a seasonal job then leading to a fulltime job and career in our exciting apple and pear industry".
-To get a job go to picknz.co.nz, email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 06 870 8540, or
-Go to the Hawke's Bay office at the PGG Wrightson Site Cnr Maraekakaho & Orchard Rds, Hastings. Open 12.30pm to 4.30pm Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, and 8am to 12pm Wednesday and Friday.