Locals are being urged to take up seasonal work as a shortage leaves farmers high and dry in the Wide Bay.
According to Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers Managing Director Bree Grima, around 70 per cent of the Bundaberg region is reliant on seasonal workers.
She says the coronavirus pandemic means people have had to think differently about where to look for employees to get produce from the paddock to the shelf.
"We're predicting there is still going to be a shortage of workers this year, so we need more sustainable long term options moving forward," says Ms Grima.
Harvest tial program
A new program has been launched to help encourage more people to take a job in horticulture.
$1m has been set aside for the Harvest Trail Services Industry Collaboration Trial, which will be split between five different agricultural groups across Australia, including the Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers.
Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, says the trial will test-run different ways to promote harvest work to Australian job seekers.
“We know growers are struggling to find the labour they need, which is why Harvest Trail Services is as important as ever,” Minister Cash says.
An 18-month trial across the Wide Bay, Sunshine Coast and Moreton harvest areas.
"We're the only regional grower group selected in this trial, so we're really excited to create long term solutions for growers."
Until the end of December 2021, relocation assistance will be available for people to move and take up jobs in agriculture, including harvest work.
Workers may eligible for financial assistance to help with the costs of travel and accommodation when they relocate to take up a short-term agricultural work opportunity.
Federal Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien says some are eligible to receive up to $6,000.
“Additionally we are also providing relocation assistance to people who move to regional areas to take up harvesting and agricultural work,” Mr O’Brien says.