Overseas workforce set to come to NT farmers’ rescue
HOPES are high that a small overseas work force of fruit pickers will come to the rescue of Top End mango farmers struggling to get pickers for the coming season with the Federal Government making an announcement today.
Farmers across Northern Australia have warned they face a worker shortage and not even being unemployed is enough to entice Australian workers into the mango plantations.
The situation is so critical the Federal Government has decided on a pilot program that would allow up to 200 fruit pickers from Vanuatu to be flown into the Northern Territory.
The Territory mango industry has been lobbying for the workers to arrive in the NT midway through this month to undergo 14 days quarantine at Howard Springs.
The Territory Government is supportive of the plan that would see the workers quarantine 14-days and then with a clean bill of health this would allow pickers to be on farms in early September.
State and territory agriculture ministers have discussed the labour shortage with the Federal Government and Deputy Nationals Leader David Littleproud acknowledged the difficulty in getting unemployed Australians to do farm work.
'There's a real aversion from the Australian workforce to go and pick fruit … even when the dole was $550 a fortnight, we couldn't get people off the couch to go and pick fruit,' Mr Littleproud said.
Jenko's Mangoes part owner and part managing director Corey Jenkins recently told the NT News that his usual picking team typically consisted of workers from Vanuatu who had years of experience with the company.
He said without a change of Federal Government stance this year Jenko's Mangoes and other farmers will be forced to employ inexperienced pickers.
Mr Jenkins said he was worried for his crops, a concern he said was shared among all of the Territory's mango farmers.
The Northern Territory's Primary Industries Minister Paul Kirby has confirmed talks have taken place for the pilot program with the federal government
He said the NT Government is continuing to work very closely with the Federal Government at both ministerial and departmental level to examine visa and quarantine arrangements for potential opportunities to source workers.
Originally published as Overseas workforce set to come to NT farmers' rescue