Growers plead for pickers as $150k worth of food ploughed into mulch
A farmer ploughs her crops back into the ground and might not grow vegetables next year as backpacker seasonal labour leaves, possibly for good.
Print text onlyPrintCancelA North Queensland vegetable grower says she may not sow next year after making the "soul-destroying" decision to plough the last of her 2020 crop back into the ground.Key points:Growers are already experiencing hundreds of labour vacancies across the northern region
As the economy reopens, fewer backpacker will choose to work on farmsOne farmer says she will abandon plans to grow vegetables next year without secure labour supplyReliant on backpackers for picking and packing her squashes and zucchinis, Lorelle McShane said she was left with no choice after staff left her Burdekin farm to return to city jobs.
"It would have been about $150,000 that we left in the paddock," she said."We had about 5,000 trays to go out of that and the current market price was $30."Unless there is a secure abundance of people in Australia to start next year, I don't think we'll be growing."
A forum in the nearby town of Ayr, 70 kilometres south-east of Townsville, heard the shortage would cut into local incomes next year.Among the areas worst hit will be towns along the east coast of Queensland, the Riverina, the Tasmanian and Victorian fruit growing regions, and the Northern Territory overall.
Farmers, hostel owners, industry, and government officials meet in Ayr to discuss solutions to the worker shortage.(ABC Rural: Tom Major)Farm lobby Growcom's Eilis Walker said the potential for massive crop losses could be an emergency situation."We're ploughing in crops worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's no situation that any Australian ever wants to look at," she said.
"I do get quite emotional about it."Initiatives dismissedthe existing Federal Government schemes to encourage urban Australians and working holidaymakers (WHM) to relocateto a harvest region, saying the scheme would not work.The requirement for backpackers on WHM visas to qualify for a second year visa is to complete 88 days of farm work, while six months farm work qualifies them for a third year visa.
Despite offering a $500 bonus for workers completing the season, the former Growcom director said it was not enough."We have to understand what the backpackers' criteria is — that's to get their 88 days," she said."When they're done, they're done, and every single backpacker hostel owner in Ayr said the same thing.
"It didn't matter what they tried to offer — reduced rent, bonuses et cetera — no, they're gone."Despite hiring some Australians who were travelling while on JobSeeker, the farm has not been able to retain them for more than a fortnight
as large parts of the economy reopen.Attendees at the forum said they believe willing workers are flocking to less difficult jobs in air-conditioned environments, but businesses including trucking companies and light industries needed staff too.Farmer Chris Coyne said he understood the tropical heat made it difficult to work long days in the paddock and the answer might be in developing technology.
"I'm a big believer in automation. Going forward, if I could develop a machine to pick butternuts [pumpkins] I'd be all in," he said.Visa changes last hopeWith thousands of dollars in relocation allowances unlikely to succeed in attracting scarce workers, some farmers think radical immigration reforms are needed.
Backpackers are one of the main sources of labour for most Australian horticultural farms, with few reliable local labour sources.(Supplied: Kiah Fowler, file photo)Industry has relied heavily on working holiday visa holders since 2006, when the second year visa scheme began, giving farmers in remote areas in particular few other options.
Mrs McShane said incentives, including a pathway to permanent settlement in Australia, could be the last hope to lure workers back to farms."They need to immediately introduce some other incentive scheme to get them back onto the farms. The only incentive is some sort of visa," she said.
"A lot of them come to Australia to get residency, the Government needs to look at fast-tracking residency for them."Find more rural newsWhile $2,000 Federal Government relocation allowances for backpackers — rising to $6,000 for Australians — come into effect in November, some growers want the scheme widened.
Bowen-Gumlu Growers Association president Carl Walker said money should be available to pay for isolatingincoming seasonal workers under a renewed Pacific Labour Scheme."There's options where we could bring in a plane-load of people, put them in empty workers camps, isolate them," he said.
"If we do not get some talks going for 2021, the pain we're suffering now is nothing compared to what we'll suffer next year." Read more: ABC News »
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But they won’t employ Australians. This is tragic. There are thousands of out of work people in the world who are willing to work and Australia couldn’t fill a few of planes with workers on special visas? From reading comments here what I understand is the Australian consumer wants to pay as little as possible so the supermarket wants to pay as little as possible so the farmer has to pay as little as possible to have the crop picked.
Pay better wages. Works every time. So your greed got the better of you. You cries are bc your million dollar profits are not as good as last year's rorts Are these the same growers that won't hire Australians because it is easier to exploit foreigners & won't hire anyone who refuses to live in the local youth hostel, or are they different ones?
Can I bring my own accommodation? Every industry in Australia depends on foreigners to operate. For the past 10 yrs I have seen priority given to the young backpacker holiday people in FNQ. Yet there is still people placed into Work for the Dole projects. 50hrs/Fortnight 52 weeks each yr. So who's lazy now.
Could you please fucking stop with this bullshit? This would all change if we elected the The_Nationals to form federal Government.... Now that their annual import of slave labour has dried up, the agricultural industry is finally shown as the house of cards it is. Pay them. You want workers. Pay them. Supply and demand.
Now you know how the US cotton industry felt in the 1860s when they lost their slaves. Automate, overpay wages or piece rates, or perish. We don't harvest wheat by hand any more, or carrots or potatoes or sweet corn or grapes. Develop machinery and stop relying on tax free cheap labour. Can't help but laugh. So many farmers have shunned local workers for years. Something about chickens coming home to roost.
Lmao sucked in Well perhaps they should pay proper wages and decent conditions and stop using unscrupulous third party hiring companies. ABC staff, found your next job. Australians are not mugs. Pay a decent wage and they will come. I am happy to pay an extra 50c a kilo if it means that aussies are doing the work and are well paid to do so.
Food security should be a federal concern! If this industry, over the decades has been run by corporations that have broken the whole industries supply chain. We need to remove them and step in and fix it! Why don’t the farmers get out there and pick it themselves Maybe The Nationals will help the farmers 🤷🏼♂️
Pay a decent wage and people will come. It’s just not worth it. After years of seeing four corners etc expose conditions you can understand people's reluctance. How about another in depth reporting of conditions, expenses, and likely pay showing mode not mean, how people were recruited prior to Covid. Safe work practices etc.
Why did Covid policy get left out of this headline? This is the real and lasting effect of Lockdowns. Productivity has been sacrificed by government plebs who do not produce I’m sure they could attract workers if they paid them properly. Maybe paying a decent wage and not exploiting vulnerable and desperate workers would be a good strategy. Maybe all thos LNP politicians doing absolutely nothing for their pay could you out and actually do some work.
getting a bit bored of these 'the government stole our slaves!' articles. Perhaps start publishing the offered rates of pay and conditions, at least, so readers can judge who's taking the piss. All crying about the pay rate but same the people be crying when when their vegetables and fruit prices go up. Most countries are having trouble getting fruits and vegetables pick and few have said at the rate that it's being plough in they will have a food storage later auspol
Offer a lot more than a dollar a day and you’ll have more pickers than you need. Why do farmers choose crops that can't be mechanically harvested? Imagine if they just offered a fair day's pay for a fair day's work Someone should tell the farmers and their labour hire companies that slavery was abolished in 1901. After reading some of the horror stories about how people are exploited and robbed, no wonder no-one wants to work for many of them.
Federal Government failure to modify unemployment system so people can work these short term jobs, then have to wait to get back on dole. Then pay more Littleproud is willing to be exploitated They can't be that desperate., I've offered to work the Harvest for $50 per hour.,.... so far no takers.! Don't 'plead' for workers. Offer them money. Simple really.
Well pay them , award wages , not cash in hand ,at slave labour rates Pay a decent wage! screwed now you cant treat backpackers like 3rd world factory workers Try paying them. In a free market, growers need to increase the pay they are offering. Isn’t that how this neocon crap is supposed to work? Stop paying slave wages and you’ll get workers
Stop offering terrible wages and conditions What is the pay rate? But are they offering pay and conditions that will attract workers? Then stop reliance on an underpaid transient workforce who are employed in sub-par conditions. pleading for slaves.. Every year Coal & Wollies turn in massive profits while the people doing the work get paid pittance. If we paid these people a decent wage this wouldn't be happening, we would have thriving rural communities and not all the $s going to Big Corporations & cities
Should Palaszczuk fluke re-election she will be screaming Greedy Farmers or transport companies when PRICES RISE.The problem is a direct result of QldLabour’s ILLOGICAL border closure.If fruit & veggie pickers CANNOT ACCESS the state how does fair priced produce get to market ? Well the government bring in rules that will allow people to break lease agreements to go get these jobs? Will the government allow children to be out of school for a little period of time so parents can move for these jobs? Will the government offer interest free loans for 1/2
Get the wa hard borderremoved What the federal government doing ... zilch ... more concerned about Cartier watches lol .. couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery... Surely theres plenty of illegal overstaying Malaysians Vietnamese and non bona fide protection visa applicants dodgy labour hire intermediaries can find?
Ask Scomo why? slave work growers should do it themselves
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