Labour Shortage & Shipping Issues Taking its Toll

HortNZ chief executive, Nadine Tunley, has expressed that while traditionally horticulture can be a tough way to make a living, the ongoing pressures of the pandemic have made it particularly challenging.

Shipping issues and a severe lack of workers are taking their toll on growers' mental health, noted Tunley.

"I talked to the team the other day and we talked about running marathons. The gaps between the marathons we're having to run are getting shorter and shorter. It's just unsustainable.”

Growers were rising to the occasion and there was a level of co-operation within the industry that Tunley had never seen before. However, this was born of necessity as some growers were short of labour by up to 50 percent, she said.

This, coupled with shipping issues, meant strategic decisions had to be made.

"What they're doing at the moment is trying to identify the high-value products and the ones that they can have some confidence that they can get to market because we have shipping logistic challenges as well,” continued Tunley, adding that the problems with shipping were “terrible”.

"We've got examples where people are expecting to receive 23 containers in a week and they're getting one.”

It wasn't all bad news, however, as the industry was enjoying high prices and good prospects for premium products, and Tunley remained cautiously optimistic.

"It is okay at the moment, it's very early and hard to tell because again, these guys will sell these products through until December."