Victorian government offers cash bonuses for job seekers to pick fruit and vegetables in regional areas | Ralph-Lauren

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The Victorian Government has offered up cash incentives up to almost $2,500 to encourage more job seekers to take up seasonal work.

The government has committed $10 million for sign-on bonuses for workers who complete at least 10 days of work in one month.

The payments will be spilt, with $810 paid after two weeks of work and a further payment of $1,620 after an additional six weeks of work has been done.

Minister for Agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas said the difficulty facing growers right now sparked the need for further enticements for job seekers to take up fruit picking jobs.

Ms Thomas said the payments had been split in case workers could not handle the entire eight weeks of work to get the full bonus amount.

“It’s hard work and some people may want to give it a go and find out after two weeks that perhaps they are not able to continue because it is hard physical work.”

Man on ladder picking apple
A delay in getting fruit off trees has a flow-on effect along the supply chain.(ABC Rural: Margot Kelly)

Growers struggle to find workers

Mooroopna grower Peter Hall said while he welcomed any assistance from the state government, Australians had always been reluctant to take up fruit harvesting work.

“The real issue for our industry, and I think for agriculture generally, is getting a sustainable workforce that enjoys and welcomes harvest labour and the demands of that.”

Mr Hall said to some extent the cash incentives came too late in the season for some growers with pears about to finish up.

“Whether or not they are going to be able to offer enough work for someone to do that and complete that to get the payment is probably debatable as well.”

While finding workers to come work in orchards has always been an issue for growers, Mr Hall said this year had been challenging.

“It’s very tense for farmers to watch this happening,” he said.

SPC concerned with labour shortages

Food manufacturer SPC, which sources fruit and vegetables from the Goulburn Valley, has also welcomed the announcement.

CEO Robert Giles said it was great to have something like this in place while growers waited for Pacific Islander workers to come.

“I like the way they have structured it. I think it’s clever. It encourages people to start and give them something for 10 days and then encourages them to stay longer.”

SPC has seen strong demand for its products and has increased its fruit intake from the Goulburn Valley by 40 per cent this year.

Mr Giles said challenges with getting fruit off trees could have a flow-on effect on their production line.

“We start making choices about which products we can keep and which ones we have to work with our customers on phasing out.

“I would hate for that to give the opportunity for international products to come into the market to fill the gap,” he said.

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