Help wanted: farmers call for workers

30th July 2020 | Eativity editors

As COVID-19 continues its stranglehold on our everyday lives, many city-dwelling Australians have found themselves out of a job. But in our rural and regional communities, farmers are crying out for workers. Australia’s farm sector is facing a serious workforce shortage which has been exacerbated by international and state COVID-19 travel restrictions as the picking of citrus and summer fruits gets underway.

National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) Chief Executive Tony Mahar says concern is growing about farmers’ ability to access the workers they need to get the job done.

“Like fruit and vegetable growers, grain growers are nervous about meeting their labour needs, ahead of what’s shaping up to be a bumper crop come October,” he says.

Without pickers, Citrus Australia fears fruit will be left to rot.

Farmers typically rely on a mix of domestic and international labour. This year, access to international labour through schemes such as the Seasonal Worker Program and the Working Holiday Maker Program has been significantly cut.

“While agriculture is an essential service and many aspects of the agriculture supply chain have been granted an exemption, the movement of people even across state borders remains fraught,” Mahar says.

The NFF has launched a new online resource to connect Australian job seekers with employment opportunities in agriculture.

“With many Australians now looking for work, it makes sense to do more to highlight the job and career opportunities in agriculture and the regions,” Mahar says.

Farmers usually have access to seasonal workers from interstate and overseas to help with crops.

The Australian Farm Jobs resource collates the key websites where farm jobs are listed and encourages farmers to register their positions vacant. The site also provides useful links to estimated earnings from various farm jobs and skills.

Mahar says doing more to attract Australians to farm jobs must be a part of agriculture’s workforce solution: “We know the part-time and seasonal nature of some farm work, doesn’t suit everyone. However, we urge job seekers to keep an open mind about what’s on offer. They may be surprised about how much they can earn in agriculture and horticulture, in some cases, up to $1000 per week.”

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