Labour shortages across Australia’s key citrus growing regions have the potential to disrupt upcoming harvest programmes, according to Citrus Australia chairwoman Tania Chapman.
Speaking with ABC Rural, Chapman said growers across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia were growing concerned about the availability of workers to pick their 2016 crops, with the number of working holiday visas declining by 34,000 over the last two years.
“It is hitting us badly right at this point in time,” Chapman told ABC Rural. “Anybody who grows fresh produce of any sort knows that we only have a very short window of opportunity to get our produce off, to get it to market in optimum condition.”
The Australian industry has traditionally relied heavily on travellers to help with the harvesting process.
“The hard reality is locals don't want to go out there, they don't want to pick oranges," Chapman added. "They don't want to travel from within 10-15 minutes of their home. They think it's too hot out there, it's too hard a work, so we're heavily reliant on backpackers."