Intense time

9 March 2022

Supermarket shelves are emptying as supply chains struggle with Omicron.

Supermarket shelves are emptying as supply chains struggle with Omicron. Photo NZ Herald.

It is an intense time for growers as well as New Zealanders across the country. 

The pressures are forcing businesses and facilities to close and the media is running pictures of empty supermarket shelves. 

That's why it is good news that from 11.59pm on Friday 11 March, the isolation time for confirmed Covid cases and household contacts is reducing from ten days to seven days. Read more here.

The apple season is running ahead of schedule, particularly in Hawke's Bay for traditional varieties, thanks to the fine weather.  That’s a good position to be in, given all the current uncertainties. 

The first red fruit of the kiwifruit harvest are being picked and the first significant volumes of gold have now been cleared to be picked.  The kiwifruit industry is watching recruitment numbers nervously as well as Covid case numbers.  Most of the industry is offering at least the living wage and many businesses are offering additional incentives to attract seasonal workers. 

Being able to supply the domestic market is an issue for many vegetable growers, who have faced unusually wet weather of late and whose labour shortages have been exacerbated by Omicron. 

Staying connected will be even more important over the coming intense weeks.  Check on your neighbour, make use of available services if need be and support one another.


Supermarket review

The Commerce Commission released its final supermarket report yesterday, its key recommendations being to establish both a grocery sector regulator and a dispute resolution scheme. I welcome recommendations, particularly those actions that will improve the relationship between growers and supermarkets. 

Like the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme cap increase and hopeful return of backpackers, the Commission’s recommendations give hope for the future. 



I would like to thank the RSE Industry Operations Group for their outstanding work and dedication to date. There are approximately six more weeks of chaos before returning to a slightly more normal workload.

Everyone – from the Pacific Island labour units to the Government ministries here in New Zealand – have all been going above and beyond the call of duty, to get workers into New Zealand in trying circumstances.

Phil Harris, Alesha Sturgeon and Keelie Harris from World Travellers Motueka have provided invaluable travel support and expertise to the RSE scheme.  They have not faltered in their commitment to ensure each flight goes smoothly.

A special thanks also to Emma Sherwood of New Zealand Apples & Pears, whose dedication to overseeing the RSE scheme has seen her undertake unrelenting hours. Your commitment to our industry and the RSE scheme has not gone unnoticed. Emma is also well supported by her colleagues Gavin Stagg, Nicola Crennan, Tanya Pouwhare, Emily Pope and Mike Chapman, and the newly appointed Meredith Ryan.

The challenges are endless, most notable being the unfortunate arrival of Omicron in Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu.