From Otago to fields of Uzbekistan

Patrick Suddaby, of Ranfurly, (left) and Tyson Adams, of Tapanui, are in Uzbekistan driving...
Patrick Suddaby, of Ranfurly, (left) and Tyson Adams, of Tapanui, are in Uzbekistan driving combines harvesting wheat and barley. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Uzbekistan. Probably not at the top of the list of countries to visit right now given its location, but for Patrick Suddaby and Tyson Adams, the prospect of making good money was too good to refuse.

The pair are in the Central Asian country harvesting wheat and barley for an eight-week stint, earning double what they would make at home.

Mr Suddaby comes from Ranfurly and Mr Adams is from Tapanui. This is the first harvest Mr Suddaby has done overseas. Mr Adams has done similar work in Scotland and Australia as well as New Zealand.

"Uzbekistan is a unique place. I don’t think my girlfriend or my family believed me when I said I was coming here at first," Mr Adams said.

"Leaving the family for eight weeks is a pretty hard thing to do, but my wife and the kids and I are all used to it. I am away a lot driving trucks so we knew we could handle it," Mr Suddaby said.

Personal safety was initially a concern for Mr Adams.

"I had nothing to be worried about. We have a security guard with us 24/7.

"We live in a gated commune and we have drivers that take us to work and wait there all day to take us home again.

"The war in Ukraine is actually quite far away and no-one seems too worried about it."

The duo work for a company called Indorama Agro which has its headquarters based in Singapore and employs 5000 people.

The company leases 50,000ha from the Uzbekistan Government, of which 25,000ha is planted in barley and wheat and the rest in cotton. The paddocks range from 15ha to 50ha and the staff work in pairs, each with a chaser-bin driver.

There are 12 combine harvesters and about 45 of the staff are Irish, British and Kiwi including their boss Nick Lundy, originally from Clinton, who has been with the company for four years and is now the operations manager. The rest of the staff are locals or from India.

"The language barrier can be quite hard. There’s a lot of hand signalling and sometimes you just give up and walk away." Mr Suddaby said.

"They started employing foreigners as about 25% of the harvest was being stolen by the local combine drivers," he said.

There has been little time to experience the culture of Uzbekistan. The men work 15 to 18 hours a day, every day.

"Every day is hot, with 30- to 40-degree heat — there’s no wet days. I dare say the end of harvest will be a good night though," Mr Suddaby said, laughing.

Despite the big days, the men agree the working conditions are very good; they get three cooked meals delivered to them every day.

"It took a wee while to get used to the food but it’s not too bad," he said.

"It kind of feels like you’re on island time over here. No-one is in a hurry. If there’s a breakdown, half a dozen of them will stand around and they’ll spend a long time talking about it before they even start trying to fix it," Mr Suddaby said.

The experience has given both men some perspective on life at home.

"It’s very third-world here; people live on the side of the paddocks in their little mud huts and a couple of livestock they tend to. Life is very simple but that’s all they know," Mr Adams said.

"We have it very good at home in New Zealand. It definitely makes you appreciate things a bit more," Mr Suddaby said.

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