With international borders set to stay closed until mid-2022, the Federal Government is now offering relocation cash grants of between $2000 and $6000 to lure Australian job seekers to head to the country to alleviate worker shortages.
The COVID-induced worker shortage prompted huge losses during the summer harvest with over $50 million in fruit and vegies left to rot.
Now with a busy winter grain planting season ahead and harvest of winter fruit and vegetables underway, the ongoing crisis is set to broaden across the agricultural sector in coming months.
To try and help encourage Australian workers to consider farm work, even just for a short-term stint, the federal government recently increased its cash sweetener.
In pre-COVID times 200,000 working holiday-makers, mainly backpackers, worked on farms, but now this number has been significantly reduced.
Under the new AgMove program, Australians could be eligible for up to $2,000 in relocation assistance when the complete just 40 hours of agricultural work over a two-week period, reduced from six weeks.
If workers continue in agricultural work and complete 120 hours across a period of at least four weeks, they will be eligible for reimbursement of up to $6,000 for Australian workers and up to $2,000 for temporary visa holders.
Farm work as city respite
NSW Farmers President James Jackson says there are plenty of benefits to relocating to regional areas for temporary harvest work.
“Students on university break, working holiday makers and seasoned workers are all perfect for the harvest workforce,” Mr Jackson said.
“Whether it be for a respite from city living or the potential to earn significant cash over a short timeframe, agriculture or harvest work could be the right move for right now.”
Meeting industry needs on worker shortages
Federal Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, Stuart Robert, said AgMove shows the government is doing something to help address workforce shortages on Australian farms.
“This will help to address the continued high demand for harvest workers across Australia by encouraging much-needed workers to stay on the job for longer,” Mr Robert said.
“AgMove meets industry needs by making agricultural work more attractive and accessible to workers who can relocate to help farmers during busy periods.”
Welcome support with AgMove
Mr Jackson said labour shortfalls have been a significant challenge for farmers – particularly in the horticulture and grain sectors – and NSW Farmers welcomes the Australian Government’s response to this critical issue. “Hopefully now we see more people making the most of it and getting out to the regions,” he said.