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Fruit Growers Face Labour Shortage Crisis

ACT Central Otago-based MP Gerry Eckhoff today said a crisis is looming for fruit growers because they are struggling to find labour to pick their fruit.

"I've talked to two Central Otago growers in the past 24 hours. One needs 40 pickers by next week and isn't at all confident about his chances and the other needs 27 - and so far he's got just one person who says they'll be able to do the job.

"If there are problems in Central Otago then I'm sure there's likely to be difficulties in other major growing areas such as Nelson and Hawkes Bay.

"It'll be an economic disaster for the country if fruit rots on the trees - and that's a real possibility unless the growers can find labour fast.

"Figures supplied to ACT by the Ministry of Social Development showed that at the end of November 2001 there were some 184,000 people registered as seeking work, with some 13,500 of these in the Southern regions.

"So there are plenty of people out there who could be filling these jobs but the country's current Employment Minister is not putting any pressure on people to get off the couch and get into work. He got rid of the successful work for the dole scheme and replaced it with schemes which didn't require people to turn up. This Government is happy to pay people to do nothing.

"It would be a tragedy indeed if fruit which could be providing a boost to our economy in the export market rots, while young people who could be helping to pick it languish on the dole.

"The ball is in the Employment Minister's court. What are he and his department going to do about finding labour for the fruit growers?" Gerry Eckhoff said.


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