Rows of courgettes are rotting because horticulturist Brett Heap can’t get enough people to pick his vegetables.
He’s not the only food producer with staff shortages.
Dairy farmers, horticulturists and viticulturists the length of the country have the same complaint even though there are plenty of people without jobs who ought to be available to help.
Why doesn’t work in primary production appeal?
One reason is that people who are unemployed face abatement to their benefits when they get paid work. Some think lowering the abatement would help but it could also result in people earning more from benefits and part time or temporary work than they could in fulltime, permanent jobs.
Another reason often given is low wages but how much is enough, especially when often pay in horticulture is determined by how much the workers pick which means those who pick more earn more?
While some are calling for higher wages in horticulture and dairy sectors there are also complaints about the high cost of food.
Too many don’t seem to be able to join the dots between the cost of production and the price of food.
Wages aren’t the only contributor to food costs and some, often most, of the price is based on what happens between the paddock and plate. But higher costs of production, of which workers’ pay can be a considerable part, will eventually lead to higher prices for food.
The government ought to be cognizant of this, but their plans to add another five days to sick leave entitlements and an extra public holiday for Matariki shows it either isn’t, or doesn’t care.