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Victoria puts down almost $20m to support, encourage seasonal crop pickers

The announcement that the Victorian government will put $19.3 million to support local jobs and largely cover the quarantine costs for Pacific Islander seasonal workers has been welcomed by some industry firms.

However, farmers and growers will be expected to put $2,000 toward the $7,200 cost of isolating and quarantining each Pacific Islander worker.

The deal was announced after crops across the state were unable to be picked in time and were lost, with around 1,500 Pacific Islander seasonal workers currently in quarantine in Tasmanian hotels, according to the ABC.

Victorian agriculture minister Mary-Anne Thomas said the government would also be attempting to encourage local workers into farm jobs, as the Victorian unemployment rate hits 7.1 per cent.

A cash bonus of almost $2500 will be provided to Victorians should they agree to pick fruit for eight weeks, the minister explained. The scheme will give Victorians $810 for the first two weeks, and a further $1620 after the next six weeks.

“The pandemic has exposed this industry’s over-reliance on overseas workers and it’s a problem that’s not going away any time soon,” Thomas said, according to the ABC.

“We need a national approach to resolving this.”

President of the Victorian Farmers Federation, Emma Germano, said a two-month effort picking fruit could be “be quite lucrative for people over the summer and autumn”, according to 3AW.

“If it doesn’t work, I think we’ve demonstrated on every level that Aussies just don’t want to come out and do these jobs,” Germano said. .

SPC chief executive Robert Giles welcomed the announcement, not just for their own business but for the entire industry.

“We’ve been talking with government at all levels about the strain on our supply chain,” Giles said.

“Demand is so strong that for the last few months our snack production line has been running day and night. Today’s announcement demonstrates that the Victorian government is doing all they can to help us get our products to market.”

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