Citrus SA has renewed its calls for a quarantine-free travel bubble to be established between Australia and the Pacific Islands to help secure an affordable harvest workforce in the long term.
- Citrus SA renews its push for a quarantine-free travel bubble between Australia and the Pacific Islands
- The first planeload of Pacific Islander workers arrives in SA tomorrow to help with the citrus harvest
- The citrus body says this should secure enough labour but is expensive for growers
The organisation’s push follows the announcement of a Trans-Tasman bubble this week, that will allow quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia.
It also comes as the first planeload of 1,200 workers from the Pacific Islands will arrive in South Australia tomorrow to be transported to the Riverland region to assist with the local citrus harvest.
The workers will quarantine for two weeks at a state government-run facility in Paringa, before they move to on-farm accommodation.
Citrus SA chair Mark Doecke said the scheme should provide enough of a labour force in time to pick all of the region’s citrus fruit, including early mandarin varieties and navel oranges, but he was concerned about the cost to growers longer term.
“With those 1,200 guys coming in and other visa holders who are already here, I think we’ll [have enough people to pick fruit in time]. It’ll be tight but I think we’ll be OK,” he said.
“That’s the reason we called for a travel bubble [with the Pacific Islands] right through summer and now we’ve got a travel bubble with New Zealand … I’d hope that the islands would be next and that would negate the need for quarantine.”
Other options could be on the cards
Mr Doecke said conversations with the state government were ongoing and the “option is there” if more workers from the Pacific Islands were needed in the coming months to ensure all fruit was picked in time.
“There are plenty of people in the [Pacific] Islands who are willing to come, so it’s down to the demand,” he said.
“If the demand is met, we won’t bring any more in. If it’s a bit light on, we’ll bring more in.”
South Australia’s Primary Industries Minister, David Basham, said the government’s priority continued to be on securing local workers for fruit picking jobs, but it had reached a “critical time” where a seasonal workforce needed to be secured.
“We are looking at multiple options to fill the shortfall of seasonal workers to ensure our state’s crops are harvested,” he said.
“Our Riverland quarantine solution will safely cater for around 1,200 seasonal workers from the Pacific Islands and we will continue to work with the federal government, SA Health and SAPOL to explore other options.”
Citrus SA said growers were prepared to wear quarantine costs for a year, but a travel bubble or a second option like in-country quarantine for Pacific Island workers needed to be considered as a matter of priority beyond this season.
The federal government was also contacted for comment.