Pork farmer predicts ‘massive’ productivity drop

Although Ian Carter is no longer the chairman of New Zealand Pork, he remains committed to the...
Ian Carter. Photo: Central Rural Life Files
Like many in the pork industry, North Otago pig farmer Ian Carter is dependent on experienced and skilled migrant workers to run his 318ha, 2000 pig, 700 cattle operation.

If farmers cannot access migrant workers with the needed skill sets and experience, including from the Philippines where there are large commercial pork operations, he predicts a "massive drop in productivity" within the industry.

As a result of Covid-19, workers who would ordinarily be arriving to work here on three-year visas had been unable to fly into the country.

Although the former New Zealand Pork chairman was pleased to see the recent visa extensions introduced by the Government, he did not think those changes would be enough to meet the needs of the industry.

"What the Government is lacking is the understanding that you cannot train experience.

"Our industry needs experienced staff, not someone who takes two to three years to gain it.

"Even with training, that experience can’t be replicated and that is what migrant workers provide."

One of his Filipino staff has been with him for almost three years and his visa expires in January and it is not clear whether he is covered by the six-month extension.

"He has improved my productivity [during that time].

"We don’t know if his new visa application is going to be declined as we will then have start the process of seeking a replacement.

"The Government expects us to be able to train New Zealanders but most have not shown any inkling they want to come into the industry.

"We realise that New Zealanders in jobs should be a priority but it is about getting the high quality skill sets we need."

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