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Farmers can’t get fruit pickers amid pandemic lockdown

There is no shortage of work in the ­regions with fewer businesses in agricultural centres accessing government coronavirus payments, but farmers are struggling to find workers to pick crops amid COVID-19 restrictions — even at wages of $400 per day.

Ahead of The Daily Telegraph’s upcoming Bush Summit, NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said Australians should consider taking up a job on the farm as producers struggle to find overseas workers.

Sustained pressure from the citrus industry saw the NSW government last week relax the rules for seasonal workers living in Mildura coming into NSW to pick fruit.

NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall says it is hard getting Australians to do farm work.
media_cameraNSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall says it is hard getting Australians to do farm work.

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“It’s very hard to get Australians to do that sort of work,” Mr Marshall said.

“I think it would be lovely if there was a change of mindset, but that‘s going to take a considerable amount of time.”

Daily Telegraph Rural Advisory Panel chairwoman Jillian Kilby said: “The Bush Summit will put this issue on the table but more importantly the Bush Summit will highlight the significant regional employment opportunities.”

Rural areas are less reliant on the government supplement than in the cities and tourist centres, an analysis of JobKeeper data has shown, with those in the regions also less likely to believe the benefit should be extended beyond September.

Farmer Guy Gaeta on his farm.
media_cameraFarmer Guy Gaeta on his farm.

A Newgate Communications survey found people in the regions were less supportive of extending JobKeeper.

In metro areas, 62 per cent of people surveyed two weeks ago believed the supplement should continue beyond September, compared with 55 per cent in the regions.

“As the government scales back JobKeeper and Jobseeker, regional NSW is putting its hand up and saying ‘we have jobs available’,” Ms Kilby said.

Mr Gueta says he can’t get people to work for him, even at $400 a day.
media_cameraMr Gueta says he can’t get people to work for him, even at $400 a day.

Orchardist Guy Geata, who grows cherries outside of Orange, has seen inquiries for work drying up during the pandemic despite cherry pickers being able to earn around $400 a day.

“We need about 70 people in December, and I don’t know what we’re going to do,” he said, warning that if growers can’t find workers, Christmas fruit will be more expensive.

“It’s going to be left on the tree, they won’t taste as good, and the price is going to go up,” he said.

Source: Daily Telegraph

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