2 October, 2020
Fresh food crisis looms
QUEENSLAND Senator Susan McDonald has rallied for an army of week-end warriors to join a nationwide effort to pick crops, warning Australia is facing a fresh food shortage crisis as demand for seasonal workers far outstrips supply.
Senator McDonald said the situation was so desperate some North Queensland farmers had resorted to Facebook advertising to recruit casual weekend workers for about $25 an hour.
She said school leavers and the unemployed should apply for full-time picking work to ward off a catastrophe.
“This is serious. Your country needs you, and picking crops can earn you good money while you adventure around the state,” Senator McDonald said. “Think of it as a national service.”
“I can’t stress enough how dire the situation is. Anyone who joins this effort can be proud in the knowledge they stood up to help their country in its time of need," Senator McDonald said.
The Morrison Government has already relaxed visa rules for backpackers wanting to stay longer in Australia if they are willing to work, and recently facilitated the arrival of 160 workers from Vanuatu to pick the Northern Territory mango crop.
“Even with the influx of 160 people from Vanuatu, the amount of fruit picked was only 10 per cent of what will be picked at the height of the season,” Senator McDonald said.
“Industry estimates 2000 workers are needed in the Territory alone, and even more for the impending North Queensland mango and lychee season."
Senator McDonald said the consequences of this labour shortage will be three-fold.
"We will face increased retail prices, crops such as blueberries and lettuce will be left in the fields, and crops won’t be planted for next year," Senator McDonald said.
“I’ve been told of a farmer near Emerald who has removed 100 hectares of citrus trees because of labour shortages, and he plans to remove 60 to 80 hectares more if the situation isn’t rectified.
“I’m also aware of a producer in Tasmania ploughing in 400 tonnes of leafy vegetables for the same reason," Senator McDonald said.
Senator McDonald also expected Australia’s trade income from exports to take a hit.
"The nation could be set to lose the income that would help it climb out of recession," she said.
“There are also the added biosecurity risks associated with importing food we would normally source domestically.
“In light of this, it’s important we continue supporting the Pacific Island workforce program, and I encourage any Australian interested in earning good money to register with the government’s Jobsearch and Harvest Trail websites," Senator McDonald said.