Farmers in Queensland are desperately seeking to recruit young Australians to pick fruit as they face a persistent shortage of jobs, despite being able to earn up to $3,800 a week.
Growers are offering an enticing wage for the job – once common among Australia ‘s pre-pandemic border closures among the many backpackers – as various fruits lay rotting on the ground.
It comes after Rachel Mackenzie said the labour shortage is a “serious problem” with the backpacker population having dropped by more than 60 percent in recent months at the peak industry group Berries Australia.
Managing Director Gavin Scurr at Piaata Farms, which includes Wamuran’s The Strawberry Fields, spoke to the Courier Mail, revealing misconceptions about fruit picking, particularly around the pay.
“There is this perception that fruit picking provides poor wages but that is simply not true,’’ Mr Scurr told the publication.
“We recently paid a worker $3800 for a week’s work recently and that is a top picker working six days a week, probably around ten hours a day, but even when you look at it as an hourly rate, that is pretty good.’’
He added that while it can be a hard job, with the right attitude, there’s fun to be had.
“It’s all about attitude – there are the real guns who just get right into it and make it a competition, with themselves and with the other guns,’’ Mr Scurr said.
“And they have fun, they just enjoy what they do, they go for it and it is not unusual for them to earn $3000 a week.’’
“Some really good workers may only want a certain number of hours a day and leave at 2pm and others might want only two or three days a week or whatever, but if they have that right attitude, they will be in high demand among the growers and they get the work.’’
He said it’s common for some employees to apply, only to last for one day and never return.
It comes as Mr Scurr ‘s lack of labour had to ruin a portion of his crop.
Many farmers across Australia face a similar heartbreak as they struggle to find hands on the farm.
Although cherry pickers could earn about $400 a day, orchardist Guy Geata, who grows cherries outside of Orange, has seen job inquiries drying up during the pandemic.
“We need about 70 people in December, and I don’t know what we’re going to do,” he said, warning that if growers can’t find workers, Christmas fruit will be more expensive.
“It’s going to be left on the tree, they won’t taste as good, and the price is going to go up,” he said.