Otago Daily Times

Cherry or­chardist not get­ting the pip despite woes

- JARED MOR­GAN jared.mor­gan@odt.co.nz

LABOUR short­ages are not go­ing to dampen Martin

Milne’s en­thu­si­asm for cherry sea­son as the har­vest be­gins.

The canny Scot­tish ex­pat has a trick up his sleeve when it comes to the har­vest at Cheeki Cher­ries/Dam Good Fruit — pick your own or as as he terms it, ‘‘PYO’’.

Mr Milne said his 5ha, 2000­tree cherry or­chard in Rip­pon­vale Rd near Cromwell of­fered visi­tors the opportunit­y to pick their own ex­port grade cher­ries in mul­ti­ple va­ri­eties.

‘‘It [the or­chard] is a bit of a fruit salad.’’

He hoped to cap­i­talise on in­creased do­mes­tic tourism to bring busi­ness his way.

The cherry sea­son this year was look­ing ‘‘de­cent’’ at this stage but things could change.

‘‘To be hon­est, you don’t know un­til you’ve got the money in the bank.’’

While he had his ‘‘PYO’’ side­line and also of­fered an online or­der ser­vice, he still faced many of the is­sues the hor­ti­cul­ture sec­tor had been pre­sented with this sea­son.

‘‘If you can’t get it out of the coun­try or if you can’t get it picked, you don’t know.’’

While he recog­nised there might not be enough hands to pick this year’s har­vest and there could be ‘‘fight­ing’’ be­tween or­chards for sea­sonal work­ers, the in­dus­try was more or less re­signed to it, he said.

‘‘It is what it is — we’re still breath­ing . . . Let the sea­son be­gin.’’

His op­ti­mism is not shared by all in the in­dus­try as Covidin­duced bor­der clo­sures mean the tra­di­tional work­force is not avail­able.

The $50 mil­lion hor­ti­cul­ture and viti­cul­ture sec­tors in Cen­tral Otago face a mas­sive short­age of work­ers with those roles tra­di­tion­ally filled by back­pack­ers on work­ing hol­i­day visas and a back­stop of recog­nised sea­sonal em­ployer (RSE) work­ers.

Near Roxburgh, Re­mark­able Or­chards owner Sid Bir­tles said he had a lit­tle more time be­fore the cherry har­vest be­gan than his coun­ter­parts at the op­po­site end of Cen­tral Otago but the worker short­age is­sue was weigh­ing heav­ily.

‘‘It is look­ing pretty grim as far as the labour mar­ket goes.

‘‘We have some back­pack­ers, we have some RSE work­ers, but we are go­ing to be mas­sively short and the Govern­ment is do­ing [very lit­tle] about it.’’

He had 10ha planted with up to 10,000 cherry trees await­ing har­vest and the crop was heav­ier this year than some pre­vi­ous sea­sons.

‘‘I have other fruit like apri­cots coming on line at the same time as the cher­ries. We may be faced with drop­ping some crop on the ground and just fo­cus on the more lu­cra­tive stuff like the cher­ries.’’

❛ To be hon­est, you don’t know un­til you’ve got the money in the

bank

 ?? PHOTO: JARED MOR­GAN ?? Ripe for the pick­ing . . . Cheeki Cher­ries/Dam Good Fruit owner Martin Milne holds some of this year’s har­vest. He re­mains op­ti­mistic despite loom­ing labour short­ages in the in­dus­try.
PHOTO: JARED MOR­GAN Ripe for the pick­ing . . . Cheeki Cher­ries/Dam Good Fruit owner Martin Milne holds some of this year’s har­vest. He re­mains op­ti­mistic despite loom­ing labour short­ages in the in­dus­try.

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