NSW Farmers Association, Media release, 18 October 2021
The Prime Minister’s decision to overrule a planned removal of quarantine arrangements has sparked fresh fears our harvest will be spoiled.
NSW Farmers President James Jackson said he was stunned to hear of the reversal just hours after Premier Dominic Perrottet promised to scrap hotel quarantine.
“We had been calling for cheaper and more efficient quarantine arrangements heading into a big harvest season, and were relieved by the Premier’s announcement,” Mr Jackson said.
“Now we’re left shaking our heads. Plants ready for harvest don’t care about political finger-pointing or vaccination rates; our farmers desperately need workers and this is just another barrier to getting the help they need.
“Both the state and federal governments urgently need to sit down and sort this out, so we can get on with the job of harvesting our crops and helping rebuild the economy.”
Earlier: Worker shortage remains top priority for Farmers
The scrapping of hotel quarantine requirements from November 1 has been welcomed by NSW Farmers, but concerns about a critical harvest worker shortage remain.
After several weeks of calls for a workable solution to a critical harvest worker shortage from organisations such as NSW Farmers and the National Farmers Federation, NSW Farmers President James Jackson warned there was still a massive task ahead for primary producers who are attempting to harvest a sensational crop with very few workers.
“This is a positive step but our farmers are still in a very desperate situation. They are trying to source workers for harvest, and even though the removal of quarantine will help, we are concerned the workers won’t arrive in time,” Mr Jackson said.
“The state government has opened a window to the world and now we need harvest workers to go to the farms where they’re needed.”
This week the NSW Government announced public servants would be given one week’s paid ‘harvest leave’ to help bring in crops, but Mr Jackson said it was only a small fraction of the workers actually needed.
“There is a shortfall of at least 10,000 harvest workers this season, and that’s because of the COVID restrictions we’ve had in place,” he said.
“Now that vaccination rates are rapidly rising and we have access to rapid antigen testing, we need to pull out all the stops if we are to have any hope of avoiding waste and lost income.
“We hope to see the state and federal governments work together on the problem and streamline any systems that will delay harvest workers.”