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New Zealand’s Apple And Pear Harvest Continues Under Strict Rules

Like many other horticulture sectors, the 2020 harvest of New Zealand’s apple, pear and nashi crop is well underway, with more than 14,000 workers harvesting around 600,000 tonnes of fruit destined for domestic and global consumers, and for processing.

The government has deemed the production and processing of food and beverages as an essential service, which means that the picking, packing and shipping of fruit can continue but with very strict protocols in place.

New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc chief executive Alan Pollard says that the industry understands and acknowledges the privileged position it is in, particularly when other businesses cannot operate.

“In being able to continue to operate, we have three key priorities: the safety of our workers; the prevention of any spread of Covid-19 in our communities; and maintaining food security.”

While the priority is to provide fresh and healthy fruit for New Zealanders, the importance of continuing to export cannot be underestimated.

“New Zealand exports a number of food products and imports a range of other essential goods” says Pollard. “If we continue to supply food to countries that import our food products, we are more likely to be looked after when we need essential goods such as medicines.”

Mr Pollard also acknowledges that some aspects of current industry practice may be confusing for those not engaged in the industry.

“I am aware of concerns being expressed by some members of the public about the number of people who are sometimes being transported in industry vehicles. In the same way that the community has arranged itself into bubbles often representing family units, so too have our workers.

“So, when you see a group of people in a vehicle, they are most likely to be a group who live together, travel together and work together without leaving their bubble”.

The industry has worked closely with government agencies to ensure that it complies with a number of regulator guidelines, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry for Primary Industries, Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, and WorkSafe. “The additional physical distancing and sanitisation protocols that we have put in place are independently audited by the authorities and that forms the basis of our right to remain operating,” adds Mr Pollard

“We can assure the public that employers in the apple and pear industry are doing all they can to make their workplaces the safest they can be, whether that’s in the orchard, the packhouse or in support roles. Our employers and our workers take their responsibility to themselves and the community very seriously. If people have concerns, we are happy to respond.”

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