Should cherry and apple grower Guy Gaeta’s dire predictions prove correct, the looming cherry season -which typically employs about 1,000 people in the district as pickers and packers over summer- will be a disaster. (Gaeta is horticultural committee chairman of farmers' association NSW Farmers.) The fallout will include wasted fruit and exorbitant Christmas prices, as low stock pushes wholesale prices north.
Gaeta has stated that a chronic shortage of backpackers and the inability to access Fijian pickers will leave Orange and the rest of Australia's food bowls without anyone to get fruit and veg off trees and out of the ground.
Westernmagazine.com.au quoted him as saying: "I've never been so concerned about it. You don't want to catastrophise, but this is going to be a huge problem. It's already happening in Queensland with the strawberries, they can't get enough backpackers."