Fruit Growers Victoria is urging people to get a fruit harvesting job this summer as they fear crops may go to waste due to a significant lack of workers for the upcoming season.
Farmers have been unable to fill their vacant positions as the pandemic has meant most international working holiday visa holders have returned home. It is hoped that Victorians looking for work will consider fruit harvesting this season, and the Government is encouraging people to apply with a new incentive fund.
Most of the available work is in the Shepparton and Goulburn Valley areas and those who relocate to take up the short-term agricultural positions (minimum six weeks) can apply for Government Relocation Assistance. The assistance package is up to $6,000 for Australian job seekers and up to $2,000 for international job seekers.
“Our usual workers that are essential in ensuring our seasonal fruit crops are available in supermarkets and markets are gone,” said Michael Crisera, Growers Services Manager at Fruit Growers Victoria.
“The Victorian fruit industry is at risk and the repercussions of not having enough workers will not only impact the farmers themselves but the consumer. The consequences will be significant wastage, lack of income for the growers and rising prices for customers.
“No experience is needed to work on the Harvest Trail and there are different jobs across the season such as fruit picking, packing, thinning and pruning. It is a great opportunity to experience regional Victoria, try new things, learns some new skills and meet new people.”
Fruit grown in Victoria that requires harvesting this season includes nectarines, peaches, plums, pears and apples.
No experience is necessary, applicants just need to be physically fit and healthy and have a positive attitude. A typical day will be 7am-3pm or 6am-2pm but can be longer depending on the weather and fruit. Some employers will supply accommodation (charges usually apply) while alternate accommodation options include caravan parks and backpacker hostels.
Workers are usually paid on a piecework rate (volume of fruit picked), though some orchards may offer an hourly award rate paid weekly or fortnightly – those applying are encouraged to discuss pay rates with the employer prior to commencing work. Fruit Growers Victoria supplies its members with a minimum piecework rate and all growers are bound by the Horticulture Award 2020. The average competent picker will earn at least 15% more on a piecework rate than on the hourly award rate.
Victorians who have recently graduated, those who have recently lost their job, people looking for a new experience or work avenue are encouraged to apply. Harvesting will start in mid-January and go through until Autumn. There may be opportunities for some workers to stay on to do pruning and general farm jobs.
Those considering a job in fruit harvesting in Victoria should visit https://greatershepparton.com.au/business/pick-shepp