‘Timely action’ needed on new agriculture visa, say vegetable growers

Unearthed potatoes at Manjimup. PHOTO: DANELLA BEVIS
Camera IconUnearthed potatoes at Manjimup. PHOTO: DANELLA BEVIS Credit: Countryman

Australia’s peak vegetable industry body has thrown its support behind a new agricultural worker visa for South-East Asian workers but is calling for “timely action” to get it up and running.

The Federal Government announced the three-year visa — which is hoped to attract 10,000 participants to fill critical labour shortages across the country — off the back of the historic Australia-UK free trade deal earlier this month.

It is hoped to fill the gap of British backpackers, who under the deal will no longer have to undertake 88 days of rural work to extend their visas.

AUSVEG national manager — public affairs Tyson Cattle said the said it was “great news” for the horticultural industry, which had been calling for a “dedicated and productive workforce for many years”.

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“Growers require access to a productive, reliable and competent workforce and while Working Holiday Makers will always have a role to play within our industry, giving growers and workers a pathway to primarily work on-farm should be seen as a major step froward for the development of the horticulture sector,” he said.

“The ASEAN countries are some of our closest trading partners, so extending the Agriculture Visa to these countries makes economic sense and demonstrates our commitment in helping our regional neighbours.”

It will be extended to all ten ASEAN countries — Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos, Indonesia, Cambodia and Brunei — with visa holders required to return home for three months out of every 12.

It was welcomed by the State’s $900 million horticultural industry — which was left with a glaring shortage of 7000 job vacancies when the pandemic began — but has been slammed by the $6 billion grains industry for “failing” its needs.

It is set to mirror the Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme, which Mr Cattle said had been “invaluable” over the past 12 months and hoped the new visa would be given the green light as soon as possible.

“What we need now is timely action to get this visa class up and running so that we can start bringing in workers as soon as possible when borders open up and international workers are able to enter the country,” he said.

“This announcement is a positive development in our industry’s calls for a dedicated labour source to harvest and package fruits and vegetables.

“We look forward to working with the Federal Government to ensure that the agriculture-specific visa meets the needs of growing businesses around the country and provides an effective solution to the industry’s growing labour shortages.”

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