NSW Farmers’ Association says it’s pleased that calls for the subsidisation of quarantine costs for agricultural workers have been heard by the NSW Government.
NSW FA President James Jackson said today’s announcement by the NSW Government to subsidise half the cost of quarantine for agricultural workers is a positive step forward. He hopes the move will continue past the 2020-2021 financial year.
‘NSW fruit and vegetable growers have already amassed millions of dollars worth of crop losses, causing heartache for an industry coming out of prolonged drought, bushfires, and now floods,’ said Mr Jackson.
‘This move will bring NSW in line with other states that have introduced support for quarantine costs, however, this commitment is for just over two months as it runs out at the end of the financial year. ‘
‘Covid-19 related workforce supply disruptions for the agriculture sector and specifically for the horticulture industry will continue to remain until at least mid-2022,’ he said.
‘While the immediate financial support provided by the announced subsidy is welcomed by our members, financial support for hotel quarantine costs is also needed for the 2021/22 cropping season,’ said Mr Jackson.
50 percent subsidy
The program announced by the NSW Government today will see the industry supported with a 50 percent subsidy for hotel quarantine costs, reducing the cost from $3,000 to $1,500 per worker entering NSW.
It will also provide retrospective support to employers who have already incurred the full hotel quarantine costs to bring desperately needed workers into the country.
‘This is a big tick for the NSW Farmers five-point-plan on addressing the worker shortage,’ said James Jackson.
‘The fact that agricultural workers are not included in the state’s 3,000 person per week arrivals cap is another tick for our plan, as we asked for state controlled flexibility of arrival caps to facilitate the arrival of seasonal workers.’
He said that accommodating the flow of workers in to the country needed to be a government priority at both state and commonwealth levels going forward.
‘The Australian Government must expedite visa processing times and introduce some flexibility into current visa requirements,’ said Mr Jackson.
‘We must also look at providing assistance to coordinate the sharing of seasonal workers across farms during their stay, so that small to medium farm businesses can also access harvest workers when required.’
Mr Jackson said figures show the horticulture sector is suffering from a massive seasonal workforce shortage and needs another 4,000 seasonal workers to fill the immediate gap and an additional 2,000 to cover peak seasonal harvest demands.
‘Our modelling shows a 50 percent decrease in seasonal workers would result in a $500 million reduction in the state’s output of fresh produce by the end of 2021-22 season,’ he said.