NZ: Psa disease drives Seeka staff cut

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NZ: Psa disease drives Seeka staff cut

New Zealand's largest kiwifruit grower and packer Seeka has requested redundancy applications from staff in the wake of orchard damages from Psa disease, website reported.

The company announced it is looking for redundancies among its 250 full-time staff who have been invited to apply by this Thursday.

Seeka chief executive Michael Franks told the website it was wise to start managing costs against the threat, although he could not say how volumes had been affected.

Seeka also employs around 3,000 additional workers in the harvest season. Most of its staff are employed in the post-harvest side of the business.

Franks said the Psa crisis continued to worsen, with gold orchards more severely affected than was anticipated by the industry and "far more quickly", the story reported.

About 261 hectares of its gold fruit supply orchards and 292 ha of green fruit properties have been infected with Psa-V, the most virulent strain of the bacterial disease.

The strain, dubbed the Italian variant, was  first identified in the country's kiwifruit capital Te Puke late last year. Seeka's affected supply orchards are in Te Puke, Welcome Bay, Waihi and Matapihi near Tauranga.

Growers who have the virulent Italian strain in their orchards, have been urged to take up the government's NZ$50 million (US$39 million) compensation package and prune their vines to the graft, or in some cases uproot them.

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry biosecurityresponse manager David Yard, in an interview with Radio New Zealand, said producers with infected orchards who had been slow to take up the compensation package were putting everyone at risk.

"What is important, particularly in this small area of Te Puke, is we cannot afford to have rogue orchardists because the whole future of the kiwifruit grorwing industry is at risk in this area."

New Zealand's kiwifruit exports last year earned more than NZ$1 billion (US$789 million).

Photo: Seeka

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