When Life Gives You Lemons (to pick) Make Lemonade

Without seasonal workers, will Australia be able to complete their harvest this year?

Agriculture is one of Australia’s most important industries, and every year around 40,000 people are required to make the harvest. Thirty-two thousand were backpackers completing the necessary amount of farm work hours needed to stay another year in Australia. Now amidst this pandemic, the agricultural industry has slowed, and with it the work that the seasonal workers depended on.

In light of the Pandemic, most backpackers have gone home, leaving roughly 7000 left in Australia. Of those left, many are low on funds and are looking to get home as soon as possible, and as the borders are closed, more will not be arriving anytime soon. As the year pushes forward towards summer, Australia is facing the issue that there are just not enough people to pick the coming summer harvest. This means Australia could face shortages in certain food as well as increased prices for produce. This will negatively affect Australia’s entire economy, but primary producers will find it extra challenging.

What will happen to this years harvest?

The fruit and vegetable farmers of Australia are worried the travel restrictions mean their harvests will be lost. Right now, there are no reported supply and demand issues for fresh produce, but many of the farmers are worrying about the labour deficit. 

“We’ve been having these conversations with the government for a couple of weeks now… to ensure there’s a security of supply of labour,” says Richard Shannon, the policy and advocacy manager of the industry lobby group, Growcom. 

Why Should you pick fruit?

 With so many people about to get off of furlough, many Australians are looking for jobs. In a time of such uncertainty, fruit picking may be the answer to the agricultural industries problems, and the population. Farmers need workers and may be raising the wages earned by fruit pickers. Even though interstate travel is not allowed currently, it’s still possible to work at any of the farms within your respective state, earning good money. Fruit picking is hard work, there is no doubt about that, but there are so many benefits. A good wage, flexible hours, and a hand in ensuring Australia’s economy does not collapse as much as it could. It would also stop the produce prises from rising in supermarkets which would benefit everybody, especially Australia’s working families. Some top fruit pickers have reported earning up to 3800 dollars a week. It could also be a great way to meet people. The hours are long, but you are always working with others, and the money is good. 

 Managing Director at Piaata Farms Gavin Scurr says fruit picking is “ all about the attitude”. “ There are several guns that just get into it. They enjoy what they do, they go for it, and it’s not unusual for them to earn 3000 a week”. The NSW agricultural minister Adam Marshall conceded it was “very hard” to get Australians to do that sort of work. “ I think it would be lovely if there was a change of mindset, but that’s going to take a considerable amount of time”.

Furlough is ending, but Australia is not going back to normal just yet. This means that many of the jobs citizens had before lockdown will not necessarily be available yet, if at all. The jobs that will be available will be in the industries with shortages, aka agriculture. This hopefully will spur Australians to the farms, helping both themselves and their economy.

Could  it boost your CV?

The whole world is facing similar economic problems as Australia right now. Everywhere people are changing trade or working where they can until the world returns to normal. People are worried about losing their footing in specific industries, but surely it is not a bad thing to take the time to help the economy. Taking a break from your regular profession, to pursue a job that pays well and helps the economy, will not affect future job prospects. When all this is over, employers will be looking for versatile and hardworking people. Branching out to help the economy will show a willingness to help your country, and an ability to get the job done.

So what is Australia doing about it?

Australia is now debating what the next move should be. It could be that Australia opens its borders to members of the seasonal worker’s programme, or instead focus their efforts on attracting Australian labourers.

Already projects are on the way with 200 workers from Vanuatu on the edge of being approved to work in the northern territory. Multiple countries have large groups of people waiting to deploy to Australia, with some actively seeking entrance. The issue is not lack of interest, but rather Australia’s reluctance to open its borders back up for workers. 

Will Australia run out of food?

Australia need not panic, though. Deputy leader of the National Party of Australia, David Littleproud says Australia produces enough food for 75 million people, over three times the population. This means no one is going to starve. It is only the business side of agriculture that will feel the effects. 

To have a successful summer harvest, Australia should reopen its borders for seasonal workers. This would ensure the continuation of the agricultural industry and provide jobs to people who rely on seasonal work to get by. As many of the countries around the world begin to experience recessions, it is in Australia’s best interest to try and stay afloat.