Dino Boratto owns Boratto Farms, which grows salad leaves at Bacchus Marsh, a region full of market gardens between Melbourne and Ballarat. Normally he would employ 15 seasonal workers from the Solomon Islands and Samoa over summer, who he says are skilled, hard workers. But this year, due to the pandemic, he hasn’t been able to employ any. Most backpackers have left the state as well.
Earlier this week, Boratto made the tough decision to destroy a crop of bunched spinach worth $20,000. He had delayed and delayed, but the shortage of workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic means he just doesn’t have anyone to pick it.
"The logic says you are pushing shit up hill," Mr Boratto says. "I push my own body as far as it can go but I am not 25. I start at five in the morning and won’t finish until 11 o’clock at night and that’s a normal day for me and my sons."
Boratto says Coles and Woolworths are predicting a 20 per cent increase in demand for his salad leaves over Christmas, with Australians celebrating with barbecues after a gruelling year.
Smh.com.au cites a report, commissioned by Hort Innovation released on Wednesday, that predicts a shortage of up to 26,000 workers to pick and pack fruit and vegetables in Australia over the next six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.