Picker grants barking up the wrong tree, growers say

Victorian farmers are questioning the value of relocation grants announced by the Andrews Labor Government, as many still struggle to attract seasonal workers.

With table grape harvest underway, the peak body representing growers has today said the grant schemes on offer don’t appear to be working.

Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said the Andrews Labor Government was just throwing money at the issue and hoping it would go away.

“We’ve known since early 2020 that COVID restrictions would put a handbrake on the seasonal workforce for this year’s harvest, but it took until January this year for the Andrews Government to act,” Mr Walsh said.

“Even then, the deal with Tasmania is yet to deliver a single seasonal worker onto a Victorian farm more than a month since it was announced.

“Meanwhile, potential workers are being turned off of applying for Victoria’s relocation incentives because the onerous process buries them in paperwork.”

Fruit and vegetable growers and the meat processing sector are sinking under the weight of workforce shortages, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in high-quality Victorian produce ploughed into the ground because it couldn’t be picked in time.

In the six months to December 2020, just 15 people applied for Victorian relocation grants.

“We’re now in March but the Andrews Labor Government is still no closer to a solution and no closer to delivering the workers our farmers so desperately need," Mr Walsh said.

"Labor is all headline and no deadline.

"Growers are best placed to know where assistance should be directed, but instead of consulting with them, Daniel Andrews and his Agriculture Minister are just spraying money in every direction and hoping it bears fruit."

Peter Walsh MP

Shadow Minister for Agriculture

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