Mountain Blue managing director Andrew Bell at one of their farms.
Mountain Blue managing director Andrew Bell at one of their farms.

LEFT TO ROT: Blueberries go to waste due to worker shortage

Some fruit producers in the area are literally watching fruit rot in trees after the pandemic stopped them from getting enough temporary workers to pick the fruit.

Blueberry managing director Andrew Bell confirmed almost 15 per cent of his produce could not be picked in time.

Speaking from Lindendale Farm, said the farm was able to bring some workers to help with the harvest, although not as many as they required.

"We got close. In the end we were short about 100 people, so we had to leave some fruit behind," he said.

Mr Bell said despite a couple of hundred tons of fruit were left unpicked, the Tabulam site recorded a record amount of blueberries packed.

" All and all, we had a good year, considering," he said.

"We picked around 85 per cent of the season's harvest.

"Despite not having enough pickets and having to leave fruit behind, we did actually pick a record number of tons out at Tabulam this year, which was a great result."

Mr Bell said the fruit left on the trees was just left to rot.

"The birds can't get to it so the fruit just falls to the ground and rots," he said.

The executive confirmed this is the first time the company was unable to pick all the fruit produced in its sites.

 

Some of the incentive program winners and executives at Mountainblue Farms.
Some of the incentive program winners and executives at Mountainblue Farms.

 

Mountain Blue awarded one $10,000 award to the best picker of the season, one of $5000 and a number of $1000.

Mr Bell said the pickers that supported the company were foreign workers living in Australia before the pandemic struck, mostly from Vanuatu, Timor L'Este, Solomon Island and other pacific nations, plus a small amount of Australians and even locals.

The $10K prize went to Jose Ximenes Da Costa, $5K was awarded to Willie Iaput, while another 35 packing shed workers, Riparian Blue workers and River Run Farm workers received a $1000 reward each.

"There were also people from places like Korea and Europe that were stuck in Australia and needed a job," he said.

Mr Bell said the next fruit-picking season will start in May 2021, and he encouraged anyone interested in fruit-picking work to contact the company at www.mountainblue.com.au.


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