Boyce urges JobSeekers to help with fruit picker shortage
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
The $100 million fruit and berry industry is still facing the most basic of issues - labour shortage.
Traditionally many of these harvesting and picking jobs have been filled by the backpacker
population under protocols such as the South Sea agreement.
This allows people form the Pacific Islands to come to Australia on limited work visas for the specific purpose of assisting with the harvest season.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the backpackers are not able to enter the country and the quarantine and accommodation issues for those from the Pacific Islands must be dealt with. Who pays for the costs of up to $5,000 per person for two weeks quarantine as well as travel costs?
The lemon and lime crop harvest is already underway, with mandarins not far behind.
One would think that with the numbers of people receiving Jobseeker, that there would be numerous applicants for the harvest season, but this assumption is not turning into practical numbers.
Many are unwilling to travel or relocate, despite financial incentives to do so.
There is also an unrealistic expectation that growers will supply accommodation and related expenses for workers.
The National Lost Crop Register showed in January that losses were already over $38 million
because of the ongoing labour shortages.
Farmers were forced to leave crops unpicked and ploughed back into the soil as there was simply not enough hands on deck to harvest their crops.
The Mundubbera and Gayndah area requires around 2,000 people, as the favourable seasonal
conditions and rainfall totals have produced approximately double last years' crop.
I urge both the State and Federal Governments to commit to a solution before this bumper crop is lost.
MP Colin Boyce
Member for Callide