MADEC Harvest Labour Services available to assist growers with labour needs

Media Release
26 March 2020

The horticulture industry in Australia is highly reliant on overseas workers to harvest its various fruit, vegetable and nut crops each year.

COVID-19 has brought the migration of international workers to a sudden halt.

Backpackers who had applied for working holiday visas and planned trips to Australia are now unable to travel because of restrictions in place. This will impact tens of thousands of backpackers and prevent them from travelling to and around Australia to perform harvest work.

It is also quite possible that COVID-19 has convinced a large number of existing backpackers to leave the country and return home before borders are closed.

Pacific countries have also started restricting labour mobility with Vanuatu, the biggest supplier, banning any further residents in Australia’s Seasonal Worker Program for the time being.

The industry is about to face severe labour shortages compounded now by state by state border controls and even restrictions on movement within state borders.

The most recent ABARES farm survey suggests that about 50 per cent of the workforce for vegetable farms, and about 30 per cent for fruit and nut farms hold a visa of some sort.

With no new workers arriving, one obvious solution to prevent a horticultural labour shortage is to extend the stay of those temporary migrant workers already in Australia. Those whose visas are set to expire should, if they wish, be allowed to stay, and work, longer.

Various industry groups are imploring the government to adjust visa settings to allow current visa holders to stay longer and presumably remain employed in the horticulture sector.

Another option open to growers and contractors are the services provided by Harvest Labour Offices.

MADEC delivers these services across South Australia, northern Victoria and southern NSW.

Harvest Labour Services are a no cost service that put willing workers in touch with employers seeking horticulture labour.

While most of the people seeking work through HLS are backpackers, COVID19 will provide a supply of displaced Australians who will find themselves unemployed as a result of the attempts by government to control the spread of the disease.

Employers and those looking for horticulture work simply need to phone 1800 062 332 to be put through to the local Harvest Office.

Gavin Krake MADEC Manager, Harvest Services | 1800 062 332