Harvest worker shortage revoked amid mass virus job losses
FEARS COVID-19 could create a massive shortage of farm workers have thankfully been proven wrong, with more workers available than farmers require.
In mid-March, farmers and labour hire providers were worried travel bans and work restrictions could put the winter harvest in jeopardy.
But with the harvest season kicking off, Kings Labour Hire owner Kingsley Harrison said the worst-case scenario had been avoided.
“There’s heaps (of workers available),” Mr Harrison said.
“I’d be getting about 20 phone calls a day of people looking for work – there’s no shortage.”
Lockyer Growers president Michael Sippel agreed.
“The general chat is no one is short of labour,” Mr Sippel said.
“No one is telling me they’re short of workers.”
He said with the hospitality industry almost entirely shut down, many of its workers from surrounding regions had made the journey to the Valley looking for farm work.
He added many farmers were employing workers who lived locally, helping to maintain labour supply.
There are so many workers available, Mr Harrison said some who were looking for work could be left empty-handed by the end of the season.
“The sad fact is, there are going be kids that come here that will end up at the end of the season and won’t have had a job,” he said.
The supply of labour was boosted by changes to seasonal worker and working holiday visas allowing visa-holders to stay in the country longer, as well as state government guidelines allowing workers to travel to agricultural regions.
Mr Harrison said the changes had been a boost to the numbers of workers available.
“I think (the season) will just chug along as per usual hopefully,” he said.
He added some more experienced workers hadn’t returned to the region but said this wasn’t a major issue as farmers were used to training workers on the job.