Australia’s fruit and vegetable industry has warned that crops may be left to rot in fields because of a major shortage of accommodation for backpackers who pick the produce.
Spokespersons from Growcom, the major industry body in Queensland, have stated that many hostels and caravan parks, where backpackers usually stayed in farming towns, had closed their doors in response to coronavirus. Some young travellers told the ABC they had resorted to camping illegally in forests and on rural land and were sleeping in their cars because of the lack of accommodation.
The horticulture industry says there was nowhere for many of those travellers to sleep, prompting warnings about the supply of winter fruit and vegetables in the coming months. "We need to acknowledge there is some risk that a lack of accommodation could mean that some crops don't get harvested," said Growcom spokesman Richard Shannon.
He said while many accommodation options such as hostels and caravan parks were closed, supply was even tighter because the Commonwealth announced that, in a bid to protect regional communities, backpackers would also have to self-isolate for 14 days before they started work.