Business South May 2021

52 | Labour shortages on-going problem HORTICULTURE Golden Bay Fruit / 45 South TRUSTED PARTNER OF 45 SOUTH Providing 45 South with quality corrugated packaging, made from renewable, sustainably harvested forestry and recycled wood fibre. Oji Fibre Solutions Packaging Southern 85 Shands Road, Hornby, Christchurch Phone (03) 349 4434 SUMMERLAND E X P R E S S F R E I G H T LT D 18 Rogers Street, Cromwell Ph: 03 445 0752 e: A family owned & operated company running express freight services across the South Island. T im Jones, CEO of 45 South, New Zea- land’s biggest grower and packer of export cherries, warns of labour short- ages in Central Otago whether or not Covid is resolved, simply based upon the volume of cherries planted over the last five years. While Covid and the closure of borders has been the catalyst for labour issues currently faced by growers, Tim urges that going for- ward anything growers can do to save labour, be it out on the orchard or in the packhouse, will be vital. “If growers aren’t going to invest in new growing systems or labour saving technology, they’re going to struggle to attract enough people. “A lot of the cherries grown on our own properties use a modern growing system called UFO (Upright Fruiting Offshoot). “It’s a far more efficient growing system as far as labour utilisation goes and provides better productivity. A picker can pick twice the volume of fruit than they could off traditional planting system because the fruit is closer to the ground and doesn’t require the use of ladders.” Employing thirty permanent staff, 45 South typically employs between 500 – 600 seasonal workers between December and February. Pre-Covid, those seasonal workers would be made up of 70% backpackers, 15% RSE workers from the Pacific Islands, with the remainder made up of locals from Otago and Kiwis further afield. “With the borders being shut we were in excess of 50% New Zealanders, very few RSE workers, with backpackers making up the rest. “The backpackers have been wonderful for us for a number of years and the ones still in New Zealand are very appreciative of the fact that they can stay here rather than be forced to go home where Covid is potentially running rampant.” “ In our business we pick and pack 70 – 80 tonnes of cherries every day. You can’t just put them in a cool store and wait for workers to turn up a week later. If you don’t pick and pack that day because there isn’t enough labour then you’ve lost it.” T Richard Loader Tier 2 fruit result of storm T Karen Phelps MOVING THE GOODS THAT MOVE NEW ZEALAND 59 Beatty St, Nelson | Ph: 03 547 2015 | Everything rides on a pallet, or in a bin! A new tier 2 value brand called Stormy Fruit hopes to capture consumer desire for great value combined with a great eating experience, says Golden Bay Fruit shareholder and director, Evan Heywood. The product is the result of a once-in-a- lifetime hailstorm at the end of 2020 that wrecked havoc on the fruit of many orchards in the Tasman region. “A lot of apples have marks on them but they’re still a fantastic eating experience, delivering on taste and nutrition, so Stormy Fruit will offer great value to the consumer,” he says. Golden Bay Fruit already delivers a tier 2 product into markets in Russia and India so Stormy Fruit will build on this as well as target additional markets. While growers will continue to aim to produce the best fruit possible for the tier 1 market, Stormy Fruit will capitalise on fruit that doesn’t make the tier 1 cut, saving on food wastage and delivering great value to a different consumer need, says Evan. Golden Bay Fruit is owned by two share- holding orchard families and also has other growers that supply fruit to the company. Evan says Golden Bay Fruit has enabled the control of growers’ fruit from orchard to market. “We’re the growers so we’re the best people to have a relationship with our customers. It enables us to control our own destiny.” Evan is the third generation to work for his family’s orchard - Heywood Orchards. Today, under the direction of Evan and cousin Scott, the company grows around 80 hectares of apples and 25 hectares of kiwifruit, spread from the alluvial river soils of the Riwaka and Motueka valleys to the Hau stones of Motue- ka, and also on the clay of the Moutere hills. A newer product for Heywood Orchards is pears and there are currently 6ha planted in- cluding the new Piqa Boo pear variety, a cross between European and Asian pears, giving the fruit a crisp, juicy texture - similar to a Nashi. New Zealand growers are the first in the world to offer it to the market due to a rela- tionship Plant & Food Research has with Pre- var, the company that developed the variety, says Evan. “This presents great opportunities for New Zealand growers as Piqa Boo has been very well-received by Asian markets.” He says the present challenge is to find ways to grow Piqa Boo to commercial levels, something that is notoriously challenging for pears. Golden Bay Fruit is also presently working in a joint venture with Taylor Corp on Next Generation Apples and is set to release two new apple varieties to the market. “Our aim is to build new global apple brands that consumers love.” In the absence of seasonal workers Tim says Otago’s orchards could not operate — it is as simple as that. “And that’s exactly where the growers and industry’s efforts need to go, to secure a sus- tainable supply of seasonal workers moving forward. In our business we pick and pack 70 – 80 tonnes of cherries every day. “You can’t just put them in a cool store and wait for workers to turn up a week later. If you don’t pick and pack that day because there isn’t enough labour then you’ve lost it.” Securing a sustainable supply of seasonal workers is the ongoing issue faced by growers and Tim makes the point that Central Otago has very little unemployment. “We engage with MSD and use any people they’ve got. But the reality is that the work- force needs to come here for a short sharp period. “We’re very lucky with cherries that it coincides with University school holidays and they’ve been the target of growers this season. I think moving forward we need to re-engage with University students and get them to come to Central Otago for their summers.” Established in the mid 1980s, 45 South’s orchards are located in the Cromwell basin in the traditional Ripponvale fruit growing area,