Horticultural organizations have called on the Federal Government of Australia to extend work visas for internationals in their country, so the cultivation of plants can continue normally, amid coronavirus crisis.
After the federal government’s travel ban, which has been in place since March 20, the arrival of Pacific Island workers under the Seasonal Worker Program has also stopped.
Therefore, the employees that had been approved by the Department of Education, Skills, and Employment, planned to arrive in the next weeks were cancelled, Visa Guide. World reports.
The employees were planned to be located in Queensland in order to start the citrus harvest.
Due to the travel ban in the fight against coronavirus pandemic, a large number of backpackers were also ineligible to fly back to their home nations, despite that their work visas have expired.
Under this situation, the National Farmer’s Federation, Horticulture Council as well as the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance have been unified in asking the government to solve the work crisis.
“Horticulture growers across the country employ local and overseas workers and require certainty around visa arrangements to know if their business can continue,” NFF president, Fiona Simson pointed out.
Simson said their requirement is that the government allows all foreign workers who are currently employed in horticulture to continue to work, even if their visas have expired.
The National Farmer’s Federation president also said that they need assurance that businesses will be eligible to move harvest labour in different locations, including interstate, in a safe way that helps them prevent the spread of coronavirus pandemic.
The Australian Fresh Produce Alliance said that up to 2700 seasonal workers and 7000 backpackers, currently in the country need visa extensions.
According to the AFPA chief executive officer, Michael Rogers, while AFPA member businesses are employing up to 5000 Australians across the territory, the industry urgently needs an immediate extension of the visas for seasonal workers and backpackers who are currently Australia.
But, there have been no promises given by the government of Australia about the horticultural growers call.
Agricultural Minister David Littleproud said that industry needs to show it had the protocols in place, to keep the community guarded, even though pickers were required for food security.
“In our meat processing sectors they’re doing that, they have a continuity plan. But for those that are using transient labour, we’re going to have to work through a protocol that can give comfort to the community,” Littleproud stressed.
Last week, the agricultural minister said he was meeting with the immigration minister and the workforce minister in order to have a finalized arrangement, but as yet nothing has been announced.
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