Warn­ing to grow­ers ahead of har­vest sea­son for onions

Gatton Star - - INTO RURAL -

AU­THOR­I­TIES will be crack­ing down on farm­ers and grow­ers in the com­ing months, as onion har­vest sea­son is set to be­gin.

“Onion sea­son will be tar­geted this year,” Lock­yer Val­ley Grow­ers Inc pres­i­dent Michael Sip­pel said dur­ing the group’s quar­terly meet­ing ear­lier this month.

“I’ve been warned and was told to pass it along.”

Onion sea­son tra­di­tion­ally runs from mid to late Septem­ber through to April and is a pe­riod of in­creased de­mand for farm­ers, who can of­ten find them­selves need­ing more work­ers to har­vest their crops.

This ad­di­tional work­force can come in the form of im­mi­grant work­ers and back­pack­ers, who of­ten don’t have the same knowl­edge or pro­tec­tions as do­mes­tic work­ers.

A 2016 study by the Univer­sity of Ade­laide in­di­cated about 78 per cent of farm­ers re­lied on for­eign work­ers to keep up with har­vest de­mands dur­ing sea­sonal peak times.

There have been many re­ported cases in re­cent years of farm­ers – some­times un­in­ten­tion­ally, through the du­plic­ity of rogue labour-hire op­er­a­tors – ex­ploit­ing their work­ers or hir­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

Mr Sip­pel didn’t ac­cuse any of those present at the meet­ing of un­to­ward ac­tiv­ity but warned au­thor­i­ties would be per­form­ing spot-checks on onion grow­ers in par­tic­u­lar.

He wasn’t able to speak for what other crops might be­come the sub­ject of crack­downs as har­vest­ing pe­ri­ods com­menced for other crops.

“There’s talk that hir­ing work­ers through an ac­cred­ited con­trac­tor means you won’t be li­able for any is­sues but this isn’t the case,” Mr Sip­pel said.

“You as grow­ers are still re­spon­si­ble for un­der­paid or il­le­gal work­ers.”

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