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Ongoing border closures and nationwide low unemployment has caused Horticulture New Zealand to call on growers to "club together" to make the best use of their resources.
Summerfruit New Zealand chief executive Kate Hellstrom said it had been a tough two years for growers and the organisation was working with other horticulture product groups and government departments to attract and retain as many seasonal workers as possible.
"We know that fruit will go to waste, which will affect profitability and morale, as some growers only have about half the staff they’ve had in previous seasons," she said.
In Roxburgh East, Remarkable Orchard owner Sid Birtles said despite crops looking "reasonably well", staffing issues were concerning.
"We’re constantly looking for people because we are quite short — at any time of the last three to four weeks, even longer, we’re down 30 to 40 people," he said.
Mr Birtles’ family had owned the orchard since 1994 and he had not experienced staffing issues to the same extent before.
"This is certainly by far the worst year," he said.
"We’re short-staffed everywhere."
Webb’s Fruit owner Trudi Webb said the Cromwell orchard had enough staff "for now" but would need more in coming months.
It had recently put an SOS out to orchards to help with thinning apples.
"We were lucky and had about 40 staff from other employers come in and get us through that," she said.
CentralPac operations manager Tim Hope said the business had put in extra effort to attract New Zealanders this season, offering a bonus for staff who finished the current season.
"There’s good money available for people who put in the effort."