More than 2600 people came off their benefits to do seasonal work, with just a fraction of them taking up incentives offered by a government work scheme. Figures released by the Ministry of Social Development show that 2631 people came off a benefit to go into seasonal work between November 15 last year and February 28. As of last week, just 195 of those had started work through the Seasonal Workers Scheme which offered up to $200 a week for accommodation costs and a $1000 incentive payment for workers who completed jobs of six weeks or longer. But it seems the number of people coming off benefits to take up seasonal work is higher than the same period a year earlier, Yummy Fruit Company general manager Paul Paynter says the industry is “in the thick of it now” in terms of picking, and while the number of pickers is better than expected, the crop in Hawke’s Bay will be down by about 15 to 20 per cent.