The Northern Territory produces and supplies over half of Australia's mangoes - many of those from Katherine. Now, experts fear the COVID-19 restrictions will hamper the annual movement of seasonal workers, which in turn will badly hurt the mango industry in the Northern Territory. According to senator Sam McMahon, the Territory mango industry was at risk of having over $100 million of mangos left to rot on the ground.
Annually, between 2000 and 2500 mango harvest workers from regions that include Timor-Leste, Fiji, Vanuatu and other Asian/Pacific nations, come to the NT through either the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) or the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS).
This year, this traditional workforce has been blocked by restricted movement across Australian and international borders because of the pandemic.
McMahon: "I've been working closely with NT mango producers to find ways for them to retain access to their traditional labour force and we have developed processes that meet safety concerns and minimise the financial hardship producers are facing this year."
For most producers, sourcing of a labour force has drifted toward seasonal workers because of their exceptional abilities to work very well in conditions frequently described as harsh and the inability to attract local workers.