Pay me $ 3,800 (Australian) per week please!
I was absolutely astounded when I read the article below (see link). The pandemic has closed borders and as a result means a shortage of back packers in Queensland, which has led to a massive shortage of labour to harvest produce. It is quite staggering that despite Australia being on the verge of a ginormous recession they are not able to entice young Australian workers offering up to $ 3,800 AUS per week. The work may be for a short term and it may be inconvenient to relocate, however even with those possible excuses it just beggar’s belief growers cannot attract pickers.
If this is currently the state of affairs in Australia then it may well be a much larger problem, than I anticipated, for New Zealand this season. Hopefully, the powers that be, are well aware and have a watchful eye on what has happened in Australia, to quickly come up with short term solutions. It has recently been in the news that NZ farm contractors require skilled overseas operators to drive very large harvesters. Due to Covid-19 border restrictions there is uncertainty of how or if special exceptions and Visa’s will be issued. Actually, this should not be in the news; the primary sector is so important to our economy and our rebuild, it astounds me that industry affected (probably through desperation) reached out to the media to highlight their concerns.
Wage Subsidy Ending:
With the NZ Covid-19 wage subsidy ending those who will now find themselves without a job and have the motivation, should be looking at NZ horticulture websites to see what types of work is available. Greenhouse horticulture businesses are generally on the search for regular or seasonal employees.
Greenhouse work is not that hard:
Just this week I was training a grower to clip, prune and drop his tomato plants. I spent an hour working side by side and it reminded me again how enjoyable the work is. There seems to be a perception that the work is dirty, hot and hard, actually it’s not that hard.
What was also worth noting, and yes, I harp on about this, is that automation of harvesting is becoming increasingly essential. In the article regarding the Queensland strawberry grower I noticed (see pic below) the strawberry crop was grown traditionally, on the ground. Harvesting strawberries manually and bending over is back breaking work so unless this grower has robotic picking harvesters, it is no wonder staff don’t survive more than one day. Growing on tables/gutters is the best option moving forward.
Even if we are back to ‘Covid free normality’ within the next two to three years, the fact is the perception of the physical requirements involved in most vegetable or flower horticulture business may not change. Possibly only a great depression will force workers to the industry. Technology for reducing labour will continue to be required if Queensland is anything to go by.
Strawberry grower Gavin Scurr has spoken out about the lack of available pickers. Picture: Lachie Millard Source: News Corp Australia
Related content: Read Mikes report below. Always a great read.
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Article Written and compiled by Stefan Vogrincic, Consultant, Grower2Grower
Article Edited by Marie Vogrincic, Editor, Grower2Grower