With the pandemic ongoing and closed borders limiting overseas workers entering the country, Fruit Growers Victoria is urging Victorians to get a fruit harvesting job this summer as part of PickGV. With a significant lack of workers for the second year running, fruit growers want to avoid crops going to waste this upcoming season.
Growers have already been hiring pruners to prepare for the Harvest Trail season, starting with cherries and finishing with apples. The regional work available is suitable for those looking for shorter-term positions through the season (with a minimum of two weeks required by growers) or longer-term – with some people staying on the whole season.
Victorian Harvest Trail
- Cherries: Nov-Dec
- Stonefruit (apricots, peaches, plums and nectarines): Dec-March
- Pears: late Jan-March
- Apples: Feb-May
No experience is needed to work on the Harvest Trail. There are different jobs across the season, such as fruit picking, packing, thinning and pruning. It is an excellent opportunity to experience regional Victoria, work outdoors, learn new skills and meet new people.
Victorian growers fear that it will be even harder this year to find workers due to no working holiday visa job seekers available. Still, they hope that Victorians will take up the positions and try something new.
“Many of the usual Harvest Trail workers are those on working holiday visas. Last year was tough as so many had returned home when the pandemic hit but there were at least some people who had stayed in the country. But those workers have now fulfilled their visa and, with no one other than Australian citizens and residents entering the country due to border closures, we have to rely on Victorians to get the fruit off the tress and packed ready for distribution to markets and supermarkets,” says Michael Crisera, Growers Services Manager at Fruit Growers Victoria.
Most of the fruit harvesting work is in the Shepparton and Goulburn Valley areas. Those who relocate to take up the agricultural positions (minimum four weeks) can apply for the Federal Government assistance package AgMove. AgMove provides up to $6,000 to Australian job seekers and up to $2,000 for international job seekers. AgMove is available until the end of 2021.
“The last 20 months have been tough on everyone, and the Victorian fruit industry knows it is not over yet with the whole season at risk. The repercussions of not having enough workers will not only impact the farmers themselves but the consumer. The consequences will be significant wastage, lack of income for the growers and rising prices for customers,” continues Michael.
“We know that many people have lost their job during the pandemic and our fruit growers have plenty of positions available. While the work is not for everyone, we have found that those that enjoy the outdoor work in the state’s regions love it, so we encourage anyone to give it a go.
“Last year, we had people both young and old come and try a fruit harvesting job. Some came on a short-term basis, and some stayed the whole season. Fruit harvesting is great for school leavers, grey nomads and those looking for work throughout the summer.”
While Harvest Trail applicants do not need experience, they need to be physically fit and healthy and have a positive attitude. A typical day will be 7am-3pm or 6am-2pm but can be longer depending on the weather and fruit. Some employers supply accommodation (charges usually apply), while alternate accommodation options include caravan parks and backpacker hostels.
Workers are usually paid on a piecework rate (volume of fruit picked) so the harder they work, the more money they make. However, some orchards may offer an hourly award rate paid weekly or fortnightly – those applying are encouraged to discuss pay rates with the employer before commencing work. Fruit Growers Victoria supplies its members with a minimum piecework rate, and all growers are bound by the Horticulture Award 2021. The average competent picker will earn at least 15% more on a piecework rate than on the hourly award rate.
Those considering a job in fruit harvesting or packing in Victoria should visit www.pickgv.com.au.
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