The Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) is urging the Queensland Government to follow suit with the New South Wales Government and implement half-price hotel quarantine for seasonal workers in agriculture.
This week, the NSW Government introduced a 50 per cent subsidy towards mandatory quarantine for workers entering the country under the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) or Seasonal Worker Program (SWP). This will reduce the cost to industry of hotel quarantine from $3000 to $1500 per person.
While bringing Australians home remains a key priority for the Government, the announcement acknowledged the importance of the agricultural sector and the dire worker shortages facing industry.
ABGC believes the Queensland Government should immediately adopt a similar strategy, with the state’s banana industry – and agriculture more broadly – in desperate need of more labour.
Stephen Lowe, ABGC chair, said agriculture could not continue to be a much-touted pillar of the COVID-19 recovery effort without additional support to access workers.
“A subsidy like the one introduced in NSW would make hotel quarantine a more realistic option for growers who are already struggling with natural disaster, poor prices and simply not having enough workers to harvest their crop,” he said.
It should be noted that the NSW subsidy is only confirmed until the end of the current financial year and provides retrospective support to businesses who have already incurred costs.
ABGC echoes the thoughts of other peak bodies in saying that this crisis will last far longer than June 2021.
“Ongoing, practical solutions are needed to ensure we can continue to put fresh, Australian-grown produce on tables around the country,” Mr Lowe said.
“Worker shortages have been impacting farming businesses for some time now and the consequences for many growers has been financially and emotionally devastating. The ramifications are only going to get worse with time, so we need action now.”