Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna Sheed has called on the state and federal governments to act urgently or Victoria’s fruit and vegetable produce will rot on the trees and in the fields.
“With just a matter of weeks to go before fruit and vegetable harvesting is due to start, there are massive problems getting the workers that are needed to pick the crops in the Goulburn Valley as well as other regions across Victoria and the country,” Ms Sheed said.
“The shortage of seasonal workers across Victoria is extremely worrying for growers in my area, many of whom have bumper crops and have been facing years of drought, fluctuating overseas markets and high water prices.
“Much has been said and done to incentivise local workers to become fruit pickers, but as February and March – the peak picking period for pears and apples in my region – nears it is critical that a solution is found.”
“The Pacific Islander seasonal workers program is extremely important, particularly in the absence of our usual backpacker cohort.”
Ms Sheed said the state and federal governments should urgently remedy the situation.
There is a strong economic imperative to bring Pacific Islander workers to assist with the harvest just as there are strong economic reasons for ensuring that overseas tennis players are in Australia for the Australian Open at much the same time.
“The federal government should send the federal Chief Health Officer to the Pacific Island nations that have been declared COVID-free to ascertain their status.”
“If those nations prove their COVID-free status, then include them in an Australia travel bubble so seasonal workers can travel to Victoria without the need to quarantine.”
“Otherwise the federal and state governments need to urgently work on a mass quarantine scheme to ensure that the state’s fruit and vegetables can be harvested in a COVID-safe way.”
“Agriculture Victoria said there are 20,000 short-term jobs paddocks and packing sheds on farms in the Sunraysia, the Goulburn Valley, the Yarra Valley and Gippsland,” Ms Sheed said.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that in order to harvest our fruit and vegetable crops in the Goulburn Valley producers will need access to Pacific Islander workers under the federal government’s Pacific Islander seasonal workers program.”
Jacqui Hawkins 0403 657 267│firstname.lastname@example.org