Much of the Australian fruit picking labour force have been forced to leave and return to their home countries due to COVID-19, leaving a gaping hole in the industry that farmers are eager to fill.
Backpackers would often travel around Australia and get labouring jobs on the local farms, picking and other labour orientated jobs occupying over 60 percent of the fruit picking roles.
Currently many Australians are losing their jobs and are refusing to take up the opportunity to work on local farms as fruit pickers.
A critical portion of Australia’s fruit and vegetable supply could be at risk according to member for Kennedy; Bob Katter.
“I have never in my life advocated compulsion, but when 10 or 20 per cent of Australia’s fruit and vegetable production is at risk, it’s a real possibility,” Mr Katter said.
“The newspapers say unemployment will reach 23,000 people in Cairns and a similar number in Townsville. Well there’s the answer to the farmers’ concerns.
“You can’t expect people to pay you when you refuse to do any work. That’s not fair.”
Mareeba Growers President Joe Moro agrees with Mr Katter, but states that the current picking season on the Tablelands is scaling down and there is not as much demand as before.
“Farmers will employ anyone who is willing to do the work,” he said.
“There will be opportunities for workers to arise overtime in the Tablelands.
“We do not encourage people to drive around and approach farmers personally, go through the proper channels.”
Mr Moro stated that farmers and operations in southern Queensland like Bowen and Bundaberg will be searching for pickers soon.
Interested residents should apply for the jobs through the proper employment channels instead if approaching the farmers directly.