Article by: Hari Yellina (Orchard Tech)
Victorians are once again being asked to step up to fill in the labour gap to ensure the state’s fruit gets picked this summer. Fruit Growers Victoria is pushing its PickGV campaign, with concerns growing over the significant lack of workers for the second year running. It is also calling on the federal government to continue the AgMove incentive program past the end of 2021. The organisation says growers fear it will be even harder this year to find workers due to there being no working holiday visa job seekers available.
The Harvest Trail season starts with cherries and finishes with apples. Fruit Growers Victoria growers services manager Michael Crisera said many of the usual Harvest Trail workers are those on working holiday visas. Last year was tough as so many had returned home when the pandemic hit but there were at least some people who had stayed in the country. As the season does not finish until the end of April 2022 the worker shortage is likely to be even more accentuated as the Harvest Trail goes on as some workers may only work with the early season fruit.
Fruit Growers Victoria also pointed out that the Seasonal Harvest Sign-On Bonus introduced earlier this year to further incentivise people to take up regional worker positions with up to $2430 has not been extended beyond its October 31 finish date. The last 20 months have been tough on everyone, and the Victorian fruit industry knows it is not over yet with the whole season at risk.