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Citrus fruit to cost more to consumers this season

May 2021
Prices of citrus such as oranges and mandarines are likey to hurt the hip pocket this winter, according to an ABC report, as citrus growers continue to bear the brunt of labour shortages and the high quarantine costs of Pacific Island workers.
Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock expects the seasonal workers shortage to worsen in winter as the industry hits peak harvest.
Mr Hancock said while governments had established quarantine programs for Pacific Island workers, more needed to be done.
“I think in this region (the Riverland, South Australia), it is close to probably 2,500 to 3,000 workers out there picking fruit per day in the height of harvest and that is really going to draw down on the numbers of available workers here,” he said.
About 1,200 Pacific Island workers are scheduled to arrive in South Australia over the next three months under the state government’s program, but Mr Hancock said there were currently only 3,000 workers from the Pacific Islands across the whole of Australia.
“There is not enough scheduled workers to come in with the seasonal worker program as it currently is, and there are certainly not enough working holiday makers or students around to make up the shortfall.”
Price rise and crop losses
Mr Hancock expected to see a slow and prolonged harvest and said he wasn’t confident all the fruit could be picked.
“There will be certain varieties that will lose shelf life as they sit on the tree and they will just have to be abandoned.”
A slow harvest was also expected to lead to some supply issues and lesser amounts of fruit available to be sent to markets across the country.
“When we have a situation that supply is short that can drive prices up,” Mr Hancock said.
He said the price rises would likely be “noticeable but not astronomical”.
Chair of Citrus SA and grower Mark Doecke said he couldn’t guarantee the region’s fruit would be picked in time.
“We have our Pacific Island program in place … that is a fair chunk of our labour need, but I suppose we always like more options. I mean we have to see how we go,” Mr Doecke said.
He has called for a quarantine-free travel bubble to be established between Australia and the Pacific Islands to secure an affordable harvest workforce in the long term.
In South Australia, approved employers for the Pacific Island seasonal worker program must contribute $2,500.


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