SHE’S NOT APPLES IN THE ORCHARDS
AS the apple season moves into its later stages, growers are struggling for pickers to get fruit off the trees.
Orchard manager Scott Price of Calvert Bros at Ranelagh in the Huon Valley said despite this year’s crop being of very high quality, many growers were finding it a challenge to get pickers.
“There are many reasons for it – the late season this year, there are also gaps in times to harvest some of the newer varieties and pickers don’t like waiting, they like continuity of work, also it’s getting a little cooler,” Mr Price said.
“Some pickers are working at five different farms to bring in the harvest.”
He said he was hoping his orchard could harvest 2800 bins. Each bin weighs about 360kg and depending on fruit size, contains about 2200 apples.
Like many growers Dane Griggs, of Griggs Grower Direct Apples and Cherries just south of Huonville has found the number of pickers drying up.
“We are finding as the season goes on, it’s getting harder to get pickers,” Mr Griggs said.
Fruit Growers Tasmania business development manager Phil Pyke said there were some growers without pickers, but the quality of fruit and yields were good.
“In the Huon some of the major growers are sharing pickers around because they can’t get locals to work in the orchards,” Mr Pyke said. “The picker shortage is also about the season running late in Victoria, this then affected us here.
“Tasmania’s apple season is also running late and we didn’t get that natural flow of pickers to local orchards.”
The issue, Mr Pyke said, was statewide.
“For some growers it was a real struggle. It was quite challenging.”
The backpacker debacle from last year is yet to bite.
“Many of the backpackers working this season are employed on their second-year visa. However, it could hurt us next season,” Mr Pyke said.
A new government program to be trialled from July 1 for two years will allow thousands of jobless Australians to earn up to $5000 doing seasonal work and not lose their welfare benefits under proposed new laws.
The Federal Government introduced a Bill in Parliament to trial the changes, announced in the midyear budget review.
Up to 7600 eligible recipients will be able to participate in work such as fruit picking without having their unemployment payments reduced, with a $300 travel allowance also on offer for those whose approved job is more than 120km from where they live.
The apple season finishes at the end of May and locals who are looking for work are directed to the Tasmanian Agricultural Jobs Project website to assist Tasmanians, migrants and humanitarian entrants residing in Australia or international students to connect with job opportunities.
These jobs may be casual, parttime or even full-time. For further information, visit tasagjobs.com.au
Some pickers are working at five different farms to bring in the harvest
ORCHARD MANAGER SCOTT PRICE