Rural round-up

07/05/2020

Horticultural labour shortage could mean food shortage, industry warns – Eric Frykberg:

Production of some food could become a casualty of the campaign against Covid-19, the horticultural industry says.

The industry said it strongly supported the fight against the disease, but no one should be blind to its real costs.

These included the risk of some growers quitting the business for lack of markets and workers, thereby reducing New Zealand’s food supply.

The comments come in the wake of a desperate plea from a Northland producer Brett Heap who grows zucchini on 30 hectares near Kerikeri. . . 

Hawke’s Bay farmers desperate in drought: ‘Mother nature has got it in for us’ – Eric Frykberg:

Farmers in Hawke’s Bay are becoming desperate as drought conditions continue in their region.

A series of pictures have been posted on Facebook showing dehydrated paddocks, some with barely a blade of grass growing.

Feed brought in from outside is expensive and sometimes unavailable.

Occasional rain has done nothing to dent the real problem. . .

Water quality not just farming’s problem – Peter Burke:

A report by the Government is offering further evidence that New Zealand’s freshwater is being impacted not just by farming but equally by urban development, forestry and other human activities.

Our Freshwater 2020, by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) and the Department of Statistics (DoS), highlights how climate change is set to make the issues faced by our freshwater environments even worse. The report’s authors say it builds on the information presented in previous reports but goes deeper on the issues affecting freshwater in NZ.

This includes new insights on the health of freshwater ecosystems, heavy metals in urban streams, consented water takes and expected changes due to climate change. . .

Coronavirus: The harvest bubble ‘flogging the wifi’ as hand picking starts to wrap – Jennifer Eder:

Many seasonal workers in Marlborough’s wine industry are also stuck at home on Coronavirus lockdown as hand harvesting of grapes comes to an end.

All non-essential businesses were to close when the country moved to alert level 4 on March 25, but people working in the grape harvest were categorised an essential service as part of food and beverage production.

Many vineyard workers brought into the country on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are approaching the end of their contracts, but cannot fly home during lockdown.

Hortus owner Aaron Jay said his RSE workers were “flogging the wifi to death” on lockdown like any other household in Blenheim; chatting to people at home, and watching movies and sport. . . 

We are starting to see some hope – Meriana Johnsen:

The heart of the Gisborne economy is beating again as the forestry industry is back in full swing under alert level 3..

About 300 forestry workers lost their jobs or had hours reduced prior to the lockdown after China, which takes over 90 percent of the region’s logs, stopped doing so in February.

Eastland Port has been able to retain all 50 of its staff, and its chief operating officer Andrew Gaddum was relieved it had work for them. . .

 

New British-made camera detects crop disease quickly:

A new camera that will detect crop disease quickly and at a significantly lower cost has been developed by British researchers.

The technology could potentially save farmers worldwide thousands of pounds in lost produce, while increasing crop yields.

Traditional hyperspectral cameras, which can be used in agricultural management to scan crops to monitor their health, are expensive and bulky due to the nature of complex optics and electronics within the devices. . .


RSE workers leave union after 4 days

13/07/2017

Union membership is low, so too is signing up people who don’t understand what they’re doing:

Attempts to sign up migrant vineyard workers in Marlborough to a union have hit a snag, with more than 100 workers joining then abruptly cancelling their membership.

The workers, in the region on the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, signed up to the Central Amalgamated Workers Union following a meeting last Thursday.

Union co-ordinator Steve McManus said the 118 workers – a figure disputed by the company involved, who claimed it was 111 – cancelled their membership just four days later.

McManus alleged the workers were pressured to leave the union, however the head of vineyard contracting company Hortus, Aaron Jay, has rubbished the claim.

Many thought they were signing up for insurance, and once they found out what the union was, how much it would cost and what it offered they became upset, Jay said.

The Hortus boss was told about the meeting, at the company’s accommodation facility Duncannon, on Friday by worker leaders concerned about what had taken place. . .

Jay said the workers had originally been happy to join, but once they understood exactly what was being offered they told him they felt ambushed, and upset.

“Unions definitely serve a purpose, I’ve got no problems with them as long as it’s done properly. A lot of the guys didn’t necessarily understand what they were signing up to,” he said.

“We pride ourselves on our morals, our values, who we are and what we do. I’m the sole owner and director of the business, so when they’re in New Zealand I’m responsible.

“We make sure they’re happy, and if that means becoming part of a union I’ve got no problems with that.” . . .

Jay is the RSE scheme representative for Marlborough, and his company, Hortus, has frequently been held up as an example of an employer following best practice guidelines.

The RSE scheme has just passed its 10th anniversary.

It’s been a success for employers who struggle to get staff during harvest and for the workers who earn good money to take back to their home countries.

There have been a few problems with a very few employers.

But this isn’t a case of a bad employer.

Nor of an anti-union employer.

This looks like a union taking advantage of people who didn’t understand what they were doing.

 


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