Kiwifruit season off to a good start

EastPack staff using the 14 lane ‘Bravo’ Grader.

With the kiwifruit season firing up, EastPack chief executive Hamish Simson says growers needn’t be worried about not having enough packers to get the job done.

“We’ve spent a lot of time and money thinking about what we’re going to do on a short labour market,” says Hamish.

With less RSE workers allowed in the country due to Covid restrictions, Hamish says EastPack has put plenty of time and money into advertising to make packing more attractive to locals.

“The first principal is to make a lot of noise, so we’ve been making a lot of noise.

“We’ve put a lot of effort into our recruitment drive. We have sites from Katikati, Te Puke, Edgecumbe and all the way down to Opotiki, and have concentrated our efforts in these areas with signage, billboards, flyers, we’re even on the back of buses! We wanted people to see EastPack everywhere.”

And it helps that past and present employees have been making noise of their own, he says.

“We spent a few years building up what I call a really good employment brand, because particularly with social media, it’s all word-of-mouth.

“To an extent your employment and your desirability as a place to work is built on the back of people’s experiences. We really pride ourselves on people having fun while they work with us, and that positive experience spins off pretty well in terms of social media.”

But EastPack has a backup plan should there be a labour shortage.

“We have got a lot of ‘Plan B’s. A big one for us is we’ve converted a little over three million trays of controlled atmosphere suitable for Gold, because Gold has always been problematic to store in controlled atmosphere.

“We’re also rolling out a lot of automation,” says Hamish.

“Our biggest grader – a 14 lane grader – we’ve put on a lot of automated packing and palletising. It still needs a lot of people to run it, but it’s packing a lot of fruit and it needs a lot less people.”


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