Shepparton News

Vic, Tas extend fruit and veg worker agreement

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MELBOURNE: An additional 1500 Pacific Island seasonal workers will be on hand for Victoria’s fruit and vegetable picking season under the extension of a COVID-19 quarantine deal with Tasmania.

The island state will quarantine the workers in exchange for Victoria taking about 350 returning Australian­s on Tasmania’s behalf.

The two states in January brokered the deal that saw an initial 1500 workers from the Pacific arrive in Tasmania before heading to Victoria.

Victorian Agricultur­e Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said a flight schedule for the new workers was being organised for the coming months.

‘‘These Pacific workers are an important part of the seasonal harvest, bringing skill and experience to bolster the local workforce during agricultur­e’s busiest periods,’’ she said.

Industry will chip in $2000 a worker to cover quarantine costs, while the Victorian Government will provide $5300 a person.

Tasmania has quarantine­d more than 2300 internatio­nal seasonal workers during the coronaviru­s pandemic.

Tasmanian Primary Industries Minister Guy Barnett said the agreement would not affect the number of seasonal workers needed for the state’s farms.

‘‘As a vital contributo­r to food security, we recognise that seasonal agricultur­al workers are essential to bolstering our agricultur­e industry during some of its busiest times,’’ he said.

A Victorian Government spokespers­on said more than 3100 people had received the first $810 of a bonus designed to attract workers to the state’s $3.6 billion horticultu­re industry.

Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh said the new workers were a drop in the ocean.

‘‘Extension of Victoria’s seasonal worker deal with Tasmania is long overdue, but the 1500 places . . . is a Band-Aid solution that won’t make a dent in the tens of thousands of vacancies across the sector,’’ he said.

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