Lockyer growers have been fortunate to pick up backpackers from the Gold Coast and Brisbane to fill labour hire shortages. (File Image)
Lockyer growers have been fortunate to pick up backpackers from the Gold Coast and Brisbane to fill labour hire shortages. (File Image)

Overseas travel restrictions could cause farm labour issues

LOCKYER growers have mixed opinions whether they will be impacted by backpacker shortages.

It comes as horticulture body Ausveg warned growers to plan and assess their labour needs for spring and summer, Lockyer Valley growers aren't too concerned about shortages.

Maragi Farm HR Advisor Julia Linnan said with restrictions preventing backpackers entering Australia, Lockyer Valley farmers could face a workforce shortage.

"I think once these people decide they want to go home, we can't get anymore coming in," Ms Linnan said.

"Its not just us that are going to lose workers, but other farms as well."

She said if visas weren't extended again, working backpackers would return home, leaving a labour hire shortage.

"It all depends how the government goes with extending visas - but that's if people want to stay too," she said.

Ms Linnan said a number of backpackers who worked at the Lake Clarendon farm recently were travelling from Brisbane after losing their jobs in the restaurant industry.

But with venue restrictions changing, many had returned to the coast.

""At the start of the season (around April) we were getting lots of resumes every day, but probably when restaurants opened back up, I noticed a decline in applications coming in," she said.

"In the last two weeks I've had two, and its been the same two people.
"Its always backpackers, never locals."

The call from Ausveg urged growers to consider their spring and summer labour harvest requirements.

But Lockyer Valley Growers association president Michael Sippel said the Valley was in a unique position because it required harvest workers all year.

"It's different for other regions that have no work at the moment, but will ramp up in the spring," he said.

"While the work is here, I think they (backpackers) will stay and keep working."

Mr Sippel said the backpackers presently working in the Lockyer Valley were likely to stay.

Despite farmers posting job positions online recently, the majority of applicants were backpackers, Mr Sippel said.

 

Lockyer Valley Growers Association president Michael Sippel.
Lockyer Valley Growers Association president Michael Sippel.

 

He believed Job Seeker and Job Keeper payments were keeping local job seekers at home.

"Backpackers don't qualify for those payments, that's why they're out here working," he said.

Ausveg this week warned growers to assess labour hire requirements for spring and summer following a decline in the number of foreign workers in Australia.

CEO James Whiteside said the availability of foreign workers was significantly reduced in comparison to last year, and that growers needed to be proactive for the upcoming seasons.

"It is also made more difficult with domestic border closures, which is why it is crucial growers plan and advertise their workforce needs as early as possible," Mr Whiteside said.

"The reality is that the demand for labour is likely to exceed supply in many areas and it is likely that those growers who have paid attention to the need for alternative labour sourcing arrangements earlier will see the least disruption to their operations."

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