Home' Grower : June 2013 Contents The South Australian Grower -- June 2013
Hard work for Riverland
By PAULA THOMPSON
THE Riverland citrus industry
is working together to over-
come recurring labour prob-
Citr us Australia-South Australia
regional committee chairman Con
Poulos said a collaborative effort
would shield the industry when
expected labour shortages hit dur-
ing its peak period in late June.
"Labour is always an issue, espe-
cially in winter when Washington
navels are in full swing and need to
be picked pretty quickly," he said.
"We have spoken with local
backpackers and given them
details of the big pack houses that
are looking for workers."
Mr Poulos said the industry was
trying its best to meet labour
requirements but shortages were
"You always find that in the
peak, in the middle of winter,
there will be a labour shortage and
you'll be waiting for a crew," he
"The days of a family going out
all picking together are done, sim-
ply due to the size of operations
Mr Poulos said early indications
were that the citr us season would
turn out to be a good one.
"So far, crops that have come off
have been good, with good-sized
fruit," he said.
"A couple of our committee
members have said they've been
pleased with the prices received so
far, but with prices, nothing has
been officially announced yet."
Mildura and District Educational
Council har vest officer for the
Riverland region in South
Australia and Robinvale in
Victoria Scott Cameron said the
two regions complemented each
other well during har vest -- while
most seasonal horticultural work is
complete in Robinvale, work starts
to ramp-up in the Riverland.
"The work in Robinvale is falling
away at the moment, with grape
har vest coming to an end, and so
is the almond har vest," Mr
"However, almond pruning is
now starting to begin and there's
also a few vegetables being har-
vested. We have a few big herb
growers at Robinvale and their
work is starting to pick up."
He said the Riverland citrus har-
vest would build up to a peak in
four to five week's time.
"The area will be exceptionally
busy at the har vest peak and it will
stay that way for three to four
weeks. From there the labour
demand slowly drops away," he
Mr Cameron said there were
always plenty of willing workers
during the har vest season but
accommodation facilities were far
"You can always find people will-
ing to work, either working holi-
day markers or backpackers. The
major issue is accommodation,"
Mr Cameron said the Riverland
region felt the impact of insuffi-
"In the Riverland there aren't
enough beds to accommodate
labour demands," he said.
Although the region is yet to get
into full swing for the citrus har-
vest, accommodation facilities are
"There's only a few places left in
the towns. All the hostels are
booked out at the moment," Mr
"The region can accommodate
about 250 backpackers through
the registered hostels, but they are
"Those caravan parks willing to
take itinerant workers accommo-
date between 80 and 90 workers,
and they are all full."
He said the few share-houses for
workers were also full.
The hurdles do not end there.
Mr Cameron said finding experi-
enced people, and then attracting
them to the region, was always an
"Seasonal workers tend to follow
har vests around the country and
we do have some difficulties
attracting them back to the
Riverland," he said.
At the moment, there is plenty of
work to keep them busy.
"Between packing sheds and
picking, and the tail end of grape
har vest, there is plenty to do," Mr
"Grape vine pruning will start
soon as well."
While some growers use
WWOOFers -- willing workers on
organic farms -- during har vest,
they offered limited help.
"WWOOFers only play a small
role, we don't have a lot registered
to work in the region," Mr
"They aren't suitable for a lot of
bigger, corporate farms, because
the conditions include having on-
farm accommodation for the
workers, and the workers only
working a certain amount of hours
"WWOOfers work 18 hours a
week, and a lot farmers would
probably need them to do that in
two days, rather than a week."
Mr Cameron said that in
Robinvale, the real difficulty was
finding experienced machinery
"With almond har vest in particu-
lar, businesses could do with more
people who can drive tractors and
almond shakers," he said.
"If people are tr ying to up-skill
or have the skills and want to trav-
el, there's plenty of work out
Jobseekers are benefiting from
the National Har vest Trail run by
MADEC, which links job seekers
with har vest jobs Australia-wide.
The Har vest Trail has plenty of
information at hand, from grape
har vesting at Berri to mango pick-
ing in Dar win, and enables thou-
sands of people to find work dur-
ing fruit and vegetable har vest sea-
son each year.
It offers a great way for people to
travel around Australia at their
own pace while working and earn-
"We have a very good network
with the National Har vest Trail,"
Mr Cameron said.
"It provides a very good flow of
information on the different areas,
particularly for working holiday
Citrus Australia-SA region chairman Con Poulos says a collaborative
approach has eased some of Riverland's labor pressures but sourcing
workers at peak times remains difficult.
A worker cleans up at a Riverland nectarine crop. Seasonal workers tend
to follow harvests around the country and growers in the region are
finding it difficult to attract them back to the Riverland.
Accommodation major issue
More skilled workers wanted
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