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Labour Supply Concerns
Growers are finding it increasingly difficult to find workers
After conversations with several greenhouse growers recently, a common topic has arisen, that there is a desperate shortage of greenhouse workers. They are concerned that the Indian students, who come to New Zealand, are not coming because the government has tightened up on visa applications. These students are important to growers. Students are allowed to work for up to 20 hours a week as part of their visa conditions. One grower mentioned that locals are not interested working in the greenhouse industry. It was such a shame to hear that comment. There are so many young people, out there, who could be leaving school and gaining meaningful employment in the industry. Why has this happened?
It is inevitable more fresh produce lines will be grown in greenhouses. You just have to look at the trends worldwide to know that. It is the way humans will be able to feed a growing world population. NZ greenhouse growers export a large amount of produce to various destinations so we need to make sure we help protect and help develop these businesses which will create large amounts of employment. These markets are growing, the larger the covered crop industry becomes the more jobs will be created, and not just in the greenhouses. Everything has a flow on effect. I hope that the government, whoever that may be, can work with growers and suppliers to help keep this industry moving in a positive direction, but they have to be extremely careful not to be counterintuitive. If there is no one to pick the tomatoes what will happen then; we simply import our food?
New Zealand has the opportunity to be a leader in greenhouse growing. We already have some of the best growers in the world. Our industry truly has the potential to grow massively in the next 20 years, but it won’t happen without a workforce.
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Article written by Stefan Vogrincic