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Australia: Berry prices up, growers get creative to lure in workers

After a cool summer, the price of berries has skyrocketed, while Australian farmers are so desperate to attract workers they are offering cash prizes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Queensland produces about 42 per cent of the nation’s strawberries. Queensland government modelling forecasts a labor shortage from May to October this year across the horticulture industry. A peak of 9000 missing full-time workers is expected in July, over the main harvest period.

Queensland Strawberry Growers’ Association president Adrian Schultz told there were usually fewer berries available at this time of year due to the changing seasons and the issue was “exacerbated” by the worker shortage. But the international worker shortage would become more of a problem in Queensland’s winter during harvest season, he said.

Strawberry farms in southern states have begun slowing down due to the changing seasons while Queensland farms on the Sunshine Coast and Bundaberg have not yet filled the gap, causing a shortage on supermarket shelves.

People are being urged to consider a job picking or packing strawberries in Queensland. Last month, the Queensland government launched a campaign to attract winter harvest workers to the state’s food bowls.

“We are supporting our food providers by encouraging people from all walks of life and age groups, who are looking for something different and are in the position to relocate for short-term work, to give a farm job a go,” Agricultural Industry Development Minister Mark Furner said.

Queensland Strawberries is offering people a chance to win up to $100,000 in cash prizes if they work on a strawberry farm over winter.

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