Call to extend visas to help farmers cope with COVID-19

Friday, 20 March, 2020

Call to extend visas to help farmers cope with COVID-19

AUSVEG, the industry representative for Australia’s vegetable and potato growers, calls for the government to immediately extend the visas of vital foreign workers to ensure that growers have the workforce they need to supply fresh fruit and vegetables to consumers. AUSVEG is calling on the federal government to extend visas for workers under the Seasonal Worker Programme and Working Holiday Makers if they continue to work in agriculture.

“Fruit and vegetables help Australians have a healthy, strong immune system and fresh produce is essential to a healthy, well-balanced diet — Australians need fresh produce and growers need workers to supply this produce to consumers,” said Tyson Cattle, AUSVEG National Manager, Public Affairs.

According to AUSVEG, the industry relies on international workers coming to Australia through various visa programs such as the Seasonal Workers Program, the Pacific Labour Scheme and the Working Holiday Makers Program, to work in the field and in the sheds. Extending the Seasonal Worker Program and Working Holiday Maker visas is a short-term solution to what could become a larger problem, if the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit the number of foreign workers who can come to Australia.

“In addition to this, our industry needs more mobile and flexible working arrangements for those foreign workers who are already in Australia so that growers can have more confidence that they can continue to supply fresh produce to consumers. Visa extensions for seasonal workers and backpackers will help provide some certainty for growers, who have already experienced extreme hardship through drought and the summer bushfires — any help that the government can provide will be welcomed by industry,” Cattle said.

Local workers who are willing and able to work on farms, and who may be interested in working in horticulture due to the current economic situation, are also encouraged to do so.

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