Queensland fruit farmers face a chronic shortage of fruit pickers
Queensland fruit farmers face a chronic shortage of fruit pickers

$3800 a week job no one wants

Queensland farmers are desperately trying to entice young Australians to fruit picking as they face a chronic shortage of workers, despite the fact they could be earning up to $3800 a week.

Growers are offering up an attractive wage for the position - once popular among the many backpackers to Australia pre-pandemic border closures - as various fruits lay rotting on the ground.

It comes after Rachel Mackenzie at peak industry group Berries Australia said the labour shortage is a "serious problem", with the backpacker population having reduced by more than 60 per cent in recent months.

Fruit growers are facing a concerning labour shortage this year. Picture: Getty Images.
Fruit growers are facing a concerning labour shortage this year. Picture: Getty Images.

Managing Director Gavin Scurr at Piaata Farms, which includes The Strawberry Fields at Wamuran, spoke to the Courier Mail, revealing there are misconceptions around fruit picking, particularly surrounding the wage.

"There is this perception that fruit picking provides poor wages but that is simply not true,'' Mr Scurr told the publication.

"We recently paid a worker $3800 for a week's work recently and that is a top picker working six days a week, probably around ten hours a day, but even when you look at it as an hourly rate, that is pretty good.''

He added that while it can be a hard job, with the right attitude, there's fun to be had.

"It's all about attitude - there are the real guns who just get right into it and make it a competition, with themselves and with the other guns,'' Mr Scurr said.

"And they have fun, they just enjoy what they do, they go for it and it is not unusual for them to earn $3000 a week.''

Strawberry grower Gavin Scurr has spoken out about the lack of available pickers. Picture: Lachie Millard
Strawberry grower Gavin Scurr has spoken out about the lack of available pickers. Picture: Lachie Millard

He added that "gun fruit pickers" are often after flexible working conditions and work across more than one farm given the lack of reliable workers around the place.

"Some really good workers may only want a certain number of hours a day and leave at 2pm and others might want only two or three days a week or whatever, but if they have that right attitude, they will be in high demand among the growers and they get the work.''

He said it's common that some workers apply, only to last one day and never come back.

It comes as Mr Scurr has had to destroy a portion of his crop because of a lack of labour.

Across Australia, many farmers are facing similar heartbreak as they struggle to find farm hands.

Orchardist Guy Geata, who grows cherries outside of Orange, has seen inquiries for work drying up during the pandemic despite cherry pickers being able to earn around $400 a day.

"We need about 70 people in December, and I don't know what we're going to do," he said, warning that if growers can't find workers, Christmas fruit will be more expensive.

NSW minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall has acknowledged there aren’t many Australians keen to snap up fruit picking jobs. Picture: Getty Images.
NSW minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall has acknowledged there aren’t many Australians keen to snap up fruit picking jobs. Picture: Getty Images.

"It's going to be left on the tree, they won't taste as good, and the price is going to go up," he said.

In August, NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall similarly said Australians should consider taking up a job on the farm as producers struggle to find overseas workers.

He conceded it was "very hard" to get Australians to do that sort of work.

"I think it would be lovely if there was a change of mindset, but that's going to take a considerable amount of time," Mr Marshall said.

 

Originally published as $3800 a week job no one wants


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