LIFTING TRUCK-LOADS: Fastest packers Chi Chen and Mao Ling filled three trucks at SSS Strawberries.
LIFTING TRUCK-LOADS: Fastest packers Chi Chen and Mao Ling filled three trucks at SSS Strawberries. Paul Donaldson BUN260916SSS3

Berry band of pickers rewarded for incredible effort

HOW fast are your fingers?

Could you pick 18 tonnes of strawberries in a season or pack three semi-trailers' full?

Those are the awesome quantities the star workers at SSS Strawberries have achieved this year.

Top picker Jureeporn Kawilo and packer Chi "Valencia” Chen were awarded trophies for their impressive work at a party thrown by SSS this month, along with runners-up Mao "Bobby” Ling and Eri Ogasawara.

Yuan Jheng also took out a medal for innovation for creating a simple frame that makes packing easier by putting the punnet on a sloping angle.

All said they enjoyed the work and had made lasting friendships over the past four months since the season began in May.

Eri Ogasawara, from Japan, said it was her first job picking strawberries, and said she was "so surprised” to receive her trophy.

"In high season it is really hard work, but we also work with the same people, and everyone is really friendly,” she said. "So even though it is hard work, in hot temperatures and we work all day, I can do it.”

And Jureeporn, who has worked as a picker for four years, said her winning hands make her "a lot of money”.

"It's very impressive, since a lot of our pickers are new,” SSS co-founder Gina Dang said.

"Everyone works really hard in a short time. Yes, they get paid, and the good ones get paid very well, but it's good for them to take something away from it, to be recognised.”

Many of the workers would be able to use their certificates as future job references, she said.

SSS Strawberries hauls in 150 tonnes a week at the peak of the season. The Dang family are set to celebrate their 10th anniversary this month, having built up the business from seven siblings and 200,000 strawberry plants to up to 100 employees and 2.2 million plants.



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