Australia to welcome Vanuatu farm workers

Farm workers from Vanuatu will be brought to Australia to help pick mangoes despite an ongoing travel ban on overseas arrivals.

Up to 170 people will come to the Northern Territory to head of a looming labour shortage ahead of the upcoming harvest.

More workers could join them if the trial is successful.

All people coming to the country will face two weeks in quarantine, while the NT chief health officer will have final approval on recruitment starting.

Vanuatu has no confirmed coronavirus infections, while there are just three active cases in the NT.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the trial would ensure no fruit and vegetables would be wasted.

“The Northern Territory’s mango producers in particular are facing a rough road ahead without the workers they rely on for their harvest,” he said on Tuesday.

“That’s going to come to a head when the mango harvest starts in earnest in September.”

Farmers across Australia have voiced concern about labour shortages with key harvest and shearing periods approaching.

The Northern Territory Farmer’s Association forecasts a shortage of between 800 and 1000 workers this month.

Producers can only employ people under the Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme provided there are no local workers to fill the roles.

Mr Littleproud said the NT relied more heavily than other areas on seasonal workers and backpackers.

“COVID-19 has virtually stopped that labour supply,” he said.

He encouraged unemployed Australians to consider heading north to work on farms.

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