Migrant workers are the backbone of the industry but the pandemic has put paid to them coming into the country.
Farmers have been getting worried for months. As the summer fruit-picking season looms, closed borders and travel restrictions mean Australia’s horticulture sector, which depends heavily on seasonal, migrant labour, will really struggle.
And that will mean a summer with fewer Australian fruit and vegetables on supermarket shelves. Consumers paying more for less. And although politicians are finally confronting the crisis — proposals to send refugees and school leavers to farms have gotten traction on both sides of the aisle — it could all be too little too late.
Higher prices, less produce
It’s no secret the horticulture sector can’t function without migrant workers — a mix of working holiday visa makers (often backpackers from Europe) and undocumented labourers — but the pandemic stopped them coming.