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Ausveg backs plan to help fruit and vegetable growers

Fresh produce in a supermarket.

Agriculture organisation Ausveg says it supports a plan by the National Farmers’ Federation’s Horticulture Council to help growers deliver fruit and vegetables from farms to consumers.

The Horticulture Council provided 10 guidelines that will help support displaced Australians and restart the recruitment of foreign workers. The measures will give them assurance that they will have safe working conditions and access essential amenities amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Horticulture Council’s 10-point approach includes an extension of the Seasonal Worker Program Pilot; incentives for domestic displaced workers; introducing an Agricultural Workforce Code; the promotion of opportunities to work in agriculture; accommodation support; establishing a National Agricultural Workforce Development Network; National Labour Hire Regulations; Working Holidaymaker Restart; Agriculture Visa and adding more occupations to the Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement.

“Fresh fruits and vegetables are a vital component to the health and wellbeing of every Australian and need to be picked and sent to market when they are ready, otherwise they will go to waste,” said Ausveg CEO James Whiteside.

He added there are concerns on shortage of workers in fresh produce farms, which was also impacted by the decline of working holiday makers in Australia.

“We hope that common sense will prevail and that state and federal governments can agree on an agriculture workers movement code that will ensure the interstate movement of ag workers and essential industry workers – now is not the time to make it harder for farmers to supply fresh produce to consumers,” he added.

He said the challenges of Covid-19 are unpredictable so it is vital for growers to start thinking on labour requirements as early as now for the coming months. He urges growers to use the National Harvest Labour Information Service to file the labour requirements. Growers can lodge their labour needs via the Harvest Trail Service to hire applicants for farm work.

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