Territory melons ripe for the picking
The Northern Territory Labor Government has launched a new $745,000 campaign to support the Territory’s $70 million melon industry and ensure local melon farmers have the workforce they need to pick more than 75,000 tonnes of valuable produce this season.
Territory melons fill a critical supply window, allowing Australian consumers to buy produce 12 months of the year. The Territory government is partnering with NT Farmers to find 200 workers from across the nation this month. Traditionally, many of the jobs have been filled by overseas and seasonal workers, but a dramatic reduction in travellers due to COVID-19 means the bulk of the workers must come from within Australia this year.
“We produce the best melons in Australia, and we have to get them off our farms into grocery shops and supermarkets across Australia,” says Minister for Agribusiness and Aquaculture Nicole Manison. “The size of the seasonal and overseas workforce in the Territory is down by about 73 percent, and that’s why we’re stepping up to make sure this important Territory industry has the resources it needs this season.”
Local melon farmers had been arranging workers to come from Timor Leste, but due to COVID-19 issues, these workers are not able to assist with the season in time.
“The melon industry is worth over $70 million to the Territory economy, with over 75,000 tonnes of melons to be picked in the coming months,” says NT Farmers President Simon Smith. “It is critical that we attract and retain a skilled and mobile workforce.”
The government will spend $200,000 on a business support package which will give businesses access up to $1000 per worker, for up to 200 workers.
It will also fund a $480,000 loyalty bonus to help businesses retain workers. The bonus of $200 per week will be made available for people that work for a minimum of 30 hours per week for at least five weeks between April 12 and July 12 this year.
“The worker support from the Northern Territory government is welcome news to our NT growers,” says Melons Australia Executive Officer Jonathon Davey. “This support will go a long way to help growers find the required staffing to maintain supply of Aussie melons.”
The government will also make available $65,000 to market and advertise jobs. A variety of roles will be available, including picking, packing, sorting and logistics. Workers with licenses to operate forklifts, trucks and production machinery will be particularly sought after. Melons to be picked include seeded and seedless watermelon varieties and rockmelons.
“Our melons are ripe for the picking,” Manison says. “So our message is simple: come to the Territory to work in a great place, have a great experience and pick our melons.”
Farmers and workers can register via Harvest Trail Services at harvesttrail.gov.au