Australia still has a problem finding fruit pickers
Fruit firms and growers in Australia have been unable to find sufficient pickers to help harvest ripened fruit. Local news agencies estimate that the labour shortage is in the thousands. The problem of uncollected and unprocessed fruit is spanning various fruit crops and Australian states, especially in the South.
Fruit Growers Victoria said that cherries and other stone-fruit crops were badly affected. In Tasmania, several hundred tonnes of fruit such as strawberries have been left to rot.
According to a foodnavigator-asia article, voices on the ground say the “Backpacker Tax” introduced by the Australian federal government at the start of 2017 has had a negative impact. This taxes pickers on working holiday visas at 15% from the first dollars earned.
Farmers and associations in both Victoria and Tasmania have expressed the desire to open a dialogue with government officials on the Seasonal Worker Programme, and hopefully to ring in some changes to regulation in order to deal with this seasonal crisis.
Tasmania Primary Industries minister Jeremy Rockliff said the government was working closely with Fruit Growers Tasmania and relevant stakeholders to address the situation. ■