By Rebecca Flannery
Two years ago, it was a “hail from hell” storm that decimated over 75 percent of the fruit crop. Last year a -4.5C frost destroyed the chance for a decent picking season. This year the threat of the trifecta was looming with a lack of pickers.
South Canterbury’s apple harvest was looking very promising, but the shortage of overseas workers due to border restrictions, and ranks of local pickers thinned by COVID’s omicron variant, meant orchardists were extremely concerned as harvest time approached.
“We finally have a good crop of clean fruit and we didn’t have enough pickers,” Waipopo Orchards partnership manager James Anderson said.
With the fruit maturity accelerating on the 52 hectares they have in production, the orchard needed around 100 pickers and support staff but at one stage had less than half that. They were at serious risk of losing a significant proportion of the crop.
That’s when local rural relationships proved their worth.
“We bombarded social media, and got in touch with local Feds president Greg Anderson, who in turn reached out to the wider Federated Farmers team,” James said. “We got a fantastic result.”
Honeycrisp apples, mostly reserved for export to the USA, is the current focus for Waipopo, followed Royal Gala, Red Delicious then Braeburn. Thanks to the way people rallied round, it looks like being a successful harvest.
Federated Farmers South Canterbury president Greg Anderson was happy to respond.
“These are trying times; we know that farming also often throws curve balls at us which are quite often out of our control,” Greg says.
“The great thing about the farming community is we hop in and help our fellow food producers.”