App to aid fruit picker shortfall
DESPERATE fruit farmers have been thrown a lifeline with hundreds more foreign workers expected to be flown into Queensland and quarantine on-farm.
And more help is on the way, with one entrepreneurial Brisbanite also planning to launch a new platform pitching itself as "Tinder meets Seek" that will match farmers with casual labourers looking for work.
It comes amid reports that the state's looming farm labour crisis has meant annual harvests have been left to rot in fields.
Jobs platform Swaggie, which launches on Monday, allows out-of-work casuals to specify what hours and days they're free and match with ideal employers.
While the platform allows for labourers, hospitality workers and au pairs to seek a position, founder Jason Wills said he hoped Swaggie would be embraced by produce growers.
"There's no shortage of people out there posting (in Facebook groups) … that they're going to be in Perth in March looking for work or they're going to be in Sydney in June and looking for work," Mr Wills said.
"We want to help two parties match," he said.
"The farm industry is probably one of the beneficiaries, in the sense that they know every November they've got three months of fruit picking."
Mr Wills said the platform was primarily aimed at international students who'd stayed in Australia after travel was curtailed, but any casual worker can use the site.
Mr Wills, who has worked in education for over a decade, came up with the idea in August last year after hearing there wash 60 per cent unemployment rate among international students still in Australia during the pandemic.
It comes as it can be revealed that more than 770 workers from Pacific Island nations have already arrived in Queensland under the government's Pacific Labour Mobility Scheme, which connects workers to farmers suffering labour shortages in the wake of international border closures.
Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said Queensland had successfully used an on-farm quarantine program, the first in the nation, to bring hundreds of Pacific Islands workers to the state.
"That trial has been extended and we expect hundreds more to be working on Queensland farms in the coming months," he said.
"The Queensland Government is working on solutions and the Federal Government also needs to accept that it must play its part and look at supporting proposed private quarantine facilities that could increase the supply of workers from low-risk countries."
The farm labour shortage is expected to worsen between March and May during Queensland's major harvest season.
The worker shortage has been exacerbated this year due to the lack of international backpackers and difficulty in getting Australians to fill positions.
Mr Turner said incentives of up to $1500 was available to help eligible Australian workers temporarily relocate to take up regional agriculture work.
However, just 120 workers have applied for the grant.
"We will continue to work with industry to support their efforts to source appropriate labour and minimise potential impacts from labour shortages," he said.
Originally published as App to aid fruit picker shortfall