Unemployed Australians are said to be quitting their fruit picking jobs just hours after starting, leaving growers with a dire shortage of workers. Covid measures have shut off the regular supply of backpackers and cheap foreign laborers, forcing farmers to offer more attractive wages to entice people off unemployment benefits. Alas, even that seems to be insufficient. Fruit and vegetable companies have been forced into offering as much as $145 an hour to pick the crops and prevent them going to rot but have seen little interest.
Lockyer Valley, an area rich with fruit and vegetable providers, has been one of the hardest hit regions by the reduced labor pool despite being less than an hour's drive from Ipswich, a town with one of Queensland's highest unemployment rates at 9 percent.
Dailymail.co.uk quoted Michael Sippel of the Lockyer Valley Growers Association as saying: “The biggest complaint from farmers is the people turn up for only one day whereas the backpackers turn up and commit to the job.”
Normally inundated with applications from backpackers who need work as they are ineligible for welfare, farmers now have resorted to using agencies to attempt to find local workers. 'We've had a couple of winners, but more often than not they're not wanting to do the work,' broccoli farmer Greg Lerch said.
The Queensland Agricultural Department recently flew in 160 workers from the Pacific Islands in May in a desperate bid to help support the industry, but without an influx of Australian workers or a return of backpackers, the situation is set to get worse.
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