Australia’s vegetable and potato industries have backed calls from northern Australian growers for the expansion of the Seasonal Worker Program, to address major labour shortages in horticulture.

AUSVEG is also calling for the number of countries with which Australia has Working Holiday Visa agreements to be expanded, to further assist Australian farmers fill seasonal workforce gaps.

“AUSVEG strongly back calls this morning from farmers in the north of Australia for the Federal Government to consider expanding the Seasonal Worker program to include Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Vietnam,” said AUSVEG Public Affairs Manager William Churchill.

AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.

“Labour shortages are not just an issue for the north of the country, but something many Australian growers grapple with. We would back any initiatives that make it easier for Australian growers to source the necessary workforce to get the job done.”

The Seasonal Worker Program currently allows farmers to employ workers from Pacific Island nations and East Timor, but only if they cannot find enough local employees to meet seasonal demands.

“Another option we would like to see considered is an expansion of Australia’s Working Holiday Visa program to encompass more countries, such as the Czech Republic and Israel,” said Mr Churchill.

“Backpackers have a long tradition of travelling to Australia and picking up jobs on farms to supplement their travels and many farmers have come to rely on backpacker workforces to address seasonal labour shortages.”

“The benefits of the Working Holiday Visa program are two-fold because backpackers are not only earning money, and can be eligible to extend their stays in Australia, but the farmer is getting access to a greater work force.”

“Expanding existing Working Holiday Visa agreements to include more countries would undoubtedly go some way to addressing labour issues in the Australian vegetable and potato industries, while also giving more young people from overseas the opportunity to travel and work in our great country.”

Mr Churchill said any measures which made the requirement to undertake regional farm work a condition of obtaining a Working Holiday Visa would also be welcome.

MEDIA CONTACT: William Churchill, Communications and Public Affairs Manager, AUSVEG Ph: (03) 9882 0277, Mob: 0411 166 748, Email: