Member of Lions Club – State Parliament
The Lindenow Valley’s $150 million horticulture industry is reeling from a shortage of seasonal workers because of the Andrews Labor government’s failure to put suitable quarantine arrangements in place.
In parliament last week, Nationals MP for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, spoke about the plight of growers in the Lindenow Valley who are approaching their peak harvest period and do not have the workers available, meaning some crops may not be picked.
In addition to employing hundreds of local workers, these growers are reliant on sourcing additional seasonal labour through the federal government’s Pacific Labour Scheme.
“The charter flights to bring workers to Victoria from Vanuatu under this scheme are on hold because the government has failed to put quarantine arrangements in place,” said Mr Bull.
“We have cases where farmers are happy to pay for the flights, but there is no system in place.”
“This is now predicted to drive up the cost of fruit and vegetables by up to 25%, making fresh produce unaffordable for many households.
“Tasmania for example is working with growers and paying the quarantine bill, but Victoria’s Agriculture Minister seems to be asleep at the wheel,” said Mr Bull.
Local organic farmer Kane Busch says the Pacific Labour Scheme has operated successfully for several years and become an integral part of workforce planning.
“Our industry is at a critical point at the start of the harvest season and if the quarantine problem isn’t solved quickly, it will be a crippling blow,” said Mr Busch.
Bonaccord’s Keith Ingram has a bumper crop of sweet corn that is threatened.
“That crop is worth $10 million but if we can’t get the workers here in time, we will lose a lot of it,” he said.
Andrew Bulmer, who also farms at Lindenow, wants the government to meet with growers to discuss quarantining seasonal workers in regional areas, as is already being done in other states.
“We know that horticulture areas in other states have worked collaboratively with their state governments to find workable on farm quarantine solutions and we are ready to do the same,” he said.
Mr Bull says he has asked the Agriculture Minister to tell growers what the government is doing to get seasonal workers to the Lindenow Valley this harvest season.
“I have also asked the Minister if she will match Tasmania’s initiative to fully subsidise the cost of quarantining its seasonal workers.”
Caption: Pictured (from Left to Right) are Andrew Bulmer, Keith Ingram and Kane Busch with Gippsland East Nationals MP, Tim Bull, at Busch Organics celery crop which is only weeks away from having to be ploughed in due to the Andrews Labor government’s failure to organise quarantine for seasonal workers.