As South Australia prepares for its lucrative annual citrus harvest, the State Government has been commended for its “leadership in exploring and approving quarantine options for seasonal workers”.
Like other parts of Australia, the state has been trying – largely in vain – to attract unemployed local people to do the seasonal crop-picking jobs normally done by overseas backpackers, foreign students looking to earn extra money, or workers from the Pacific Islands.
Due to Covid-19 border closures and travel restrictions, this workforce is largely unavailable.
Regional quarantine facility at Paringa in the Riverland
Now South Australia it has confirmed it is setting up a regional quarantine facility at Paringa in the Riverland region, about 270km east of Adelaide.
This was enable seasonal harvest workers from Pacific nations such as Fiji and Vanuatu to quarantine for 14 days before moving onto farms to pick citrus. They will be transported direct from Adelaide airport to the quarantine site.
“When it comes to filling critical worker shortages in agriculture, the [South Australian] Marshall Government is showing the other states and territories how it’s done,” Federal agriculture minister, David Littleproud, said.
Arrivals planned every 14 days over next three months
“The facility at Paringa will cater specifically for workers arriving under the Commonwealth Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme, with new arrivals expected every 14 days over the next three months.
“This comes just days after they agreed to opt-in on our National Cabinet-endorsed plan for an in-country quarantine pilot for Pacific workers,” the minister stated.
Littleproud added that he commended South Australia for its proactivity and willingness to work constructively with the Australian Government in ensuring farmers have access to the workforce they need.
Citrus production contributes $277-million to economy
“South Australian citrus is worth hundreds of millions to the state’s economy, but labour is scarce due to Covid-19 travel restrictions on international movement,” he said. According to official figures, citrus production is worth more than $277-million to the state economy.
The initiative at Paringa is expected to involve up to 1,200 workers from Pacific countries. The first group arrives in April and further arrivals will be staggered through to mid-June.
Since September 2020, more than 2,600 Pacific and Timorese workers have arrived in Australia under the Pacific labour programs designed to ease the chronic seasonal farm-worker shortage.