By Growcom Interim CEO, Pat Hannan
What is becoming abundantly clear is that the shortfall of workers available to Queensland horticulture is going to become more acute as we move into the last part of this year.
We can also expect another significant shortfall heading into next Winter should the trend of backpackers returning home continue.
Right now we are down to about half the backpackers in the country as we’d normally have, with reports of up to one thousand more leaving each week.
Growcom has been advocating for some time to State and Federal Governments that we need a range of options on the table to help fill the shortfall.
Some of these options include retaining those backpackers already in the country to work in essential industries including agriculture, and also creating a pathway for overseas workers to come into the country to pick up the slack.
To this end, we encourage the Queensland Government to seriously consider opting into the restart of both the Pacific Labour Scheme and the Seasonal Worker Program.
But bringing overseas workers into the country, and enabling them to move more easily between states, by itself is not going to be enough. We need Queenslanders to answer the call to join the harvest trail.
First things first, we need to remove the disincentive for locals of losing their JobSeeker payment. If we want our crops to come off and food in the grocery aisle, we need to let them keep all or part of their payment while ever they’re working in horticulture.
Then, we need to make working along the Queensland harvest trail as simple and easy as possible. People need to know where the jobs are, how to get there, and where they can stay.
Queenslanders are a proud people, and our horticulture industry is something we should all be able to get behind. We produce about one third of all fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in Australia. The nation needs us for their food security.
So the call the action is real and vitally important.
Growers don’t typically ask for much. Only a fair go from government and a decent price for their produce. Now they need Queenslanders themselves to answer their call.
If you’re a Queensland resident or Australia citizen we encourage you to search for work on the Harvest Trail Jobs Board found here: https://jobsearch.gov.au/harvest/search.
If you’re a grower and concerned about sourcing enough labour we encourage you to advertise early, and along with your normal recruitment activity, also post your work to the Harvest Trail Jobs Board.