AUSVEG has welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement on the latest progress on implementing the Australian Agriculture Visa (Ag Visa), including confirmation on the first country to sign on as a partner.

It was announced yesterday that Vietnam has entered a bi-lateral agreement with the Australian Government to opt-in to the Ag Visa, meaning workers from the south-east Asian country will be able to utilise the visa to work on Australian farms and provide growers with critical workers that will address the horticulture industry’s labour shortages in the medium- and long-term.

“It is a fantastic development to see that Vietnam has agreed to sign up to the Ag Visa. I thank the Australian and Vietnamese Governments for this significant announcement, which is welcome news for the Australian vegetable and potato industry,” said AUSVEG CEO Michael Coote.

“This latest development demonstrates that the Ag Visa is progressing well and will be able to provide another avenue for Australian growers to access the workers that they need to plant, harvest and pack produce for local and international markets.

“The Ag Visa was never intended to be a short-term solution to issues that stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a long-term structural change for the industry to access a more efficient and effective workforce and reduce its reliance on working holiday makers.”

AUSVEG has been working closely with the Federal Government on the development of the visa, with ensuring the program’s integrity through high worker welfare standards central to these discussions.

“The new visa will only be successful if the health and safety of workers is protected. Workers who come to Australia to pick fresh produce do so to work hard and earn good money, but we also want them to enjoy the experience and feel safe while they work,” Mr Coote said.

“The Ag Visa will be a sponsored visa, which is strongly supported by industry so that only businesses that are able to demonstrate that they are fit and proper will be able to access workers through the Ag Visa.

“We welcome the signing and look forward to the Ag Visa growing and being a critical piece of the horticulture labour puzzle.

“We would also like to thank the various government departments, particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their tireless work to progress this negotiation and we believe this is a significant step forward to ensuring fresh produce can remain on shelves for Australian consumers.”