’Disgraceful’ rules to blame for crop waste, worker shortage

 

A federal minister has slammed 'disgraceful' rules that block seasonal workers from coming into Queensland, despite a serious shortage of fruit pickers.

Millions of dollars worth of Queensland produce is going into landfill as the state's farmers struggle to fill thousands of fruit picking jobs, despite the number of job seekers.

According to a Courier Mail report, farmers are aghast at the high unemployment rates, while they are forced to plough crop in the ground with no workers around to harvest it.

Jobseeker data reveals there are about 27,000 people in major fruit growing regions in Queensland receiving government assistance, while up to 25,000 fruit picking jobs need filling during peak season.

And while Queenslanders might not want to do the work, Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said people in other states do - they just can't make it over the border.

Federal agriculture minister David Littleproud said the Queensland government needed to do more to enable hard working Aussies a chance to save millions of dollars worth of fruit and veg from landfill.
Federal agriculture minister David Littleproud said the Queensland government needed to do more to enable hard working Aussies a chance to save millions of dollars worth of fruit and veg from landfill.

 

Mr Littleproud said it was "not common sense" that hard working Australians from interstate looking for work weren't able to move freely to fill the spaces.

He said the federal government had tried to start an incentive for states to allow farm and agriculture workers to move freely in a COVID-safe way, but Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania hadn't signed up for it.

"This is about free movement of labour between states in a COVID safe way," Mr Littleproud told the Today show on Monday morning.

"What we're saying is let's allow farmers and ag workers to move … There is a third cohort the states want to classify as seasonal workers. Sometimes they are backpackers who have been in the country for some time, even some Australians who are doing it.

"The challenge we've got when one state doesn't sign up is it means if you're picking fruit in Griffith at the moment, you want to go to Bowen to pick mangoes, you will be picked up at Stanthorpe and put into a motel for $2800."

Fruit pickers, like Ticiana Marusic are relied upon to ensure Queensland’s fresh produce makes its way to supermarkets. Picture: Chris Kidd
Fruit pickers, like Ticiana Marusic are relied upon to ensure Queensland’s fresh produce makes its way to supermarkets. Picture: Chris Kidd

 

There are fears supermarket prices could rise in the lead up to Christmas if things continue on the current trajectory.

National Farmers' Federation horticulture spokesman Tyson Cattle said the lack of workers was just another blow to farmers, who were at their "wits end".

"We are pleading for people right now. For any one willing and able to jump into the sector," he said.

"It's extremely frustrating for growers. They're really at their wits end.

"They have battled drought, floods fires, all those conditions they can't control, then this year they have a reasonable year … it just blows their mind that some guys have had to plough their crop into the ground because they can't get a workforce."

Mr Littleproud said the Queensland government were "currently flying in overseas workers, letting them isolate on the farm" but were barring Australians from taking up the same jobs.

"It's just not commonsense," he said.

"We are incentivising Australians with up to $6000 in reimbursement of travel costs to get them off the couch and have a crack, but these states are holding this up.

"There is a cohort out there we really need to get up and have a go at this.

"Farmers do not have the luxury to sit around and wait for someone to turn up to pick the fruit … People have to help them."

 

 

Originally published as 'Disgraceful' rules to blame for crop waste, worker shortage


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