Australia plans to extend the Working Holidaymaker Program to 13 more countries including India. The extension will help address the labour crunch that is troubling the agriculture sector.
Jaswinder Singh Mavi, a farmer from Griffith, says that hiring labour for his 300-acre orange farm is a continuous cause of worry. He says that at times he had to let the unpicked fruit rot because he was short of labours.
To deal with this perpetual problem, the Farmers Federation of Australia has been demanding a separate Agriculture Visa. However, the Australian Govt. is yet to announce one.
However, the recent announcement of the extension of the Working Holidaymaker Program has brought cheer to Australian farmers.
Mr Mavi says that his business will benefit once the program becomes effective. A lot of people from Punjab wish to work on Australian farms. Even though these people are hardworking, Mr Mavi has not been able to hire them due to visa restrictions. He says that the inclusion of India in the Working Holidaymaker Program will be a game-changer for them, as quoted by SBS News.
Mr Mavi also says that Indian workers would need reskilling to work on Australian farms. But they have the right attitude. He also says that with Indian workers, he will not face a language barrier which is a case with many backpackers.
Amandeep Singh Sidhu is a blueberry farmer from Coffs Harbour Area, New South Wales. He says that the workforce problem is very “severe”. He says that usually, the picking season runs for about 8 months. However, with the advancement in technology, some crops are grown all around the year. He says that the current Working Holiday Program does not address labour issues. Most backpackers work for a short time and then move on to other areas to look for work. Also, farms involve labour-intensive work which most backpackers from developed nations do not wish to take up.
Mr Sidhu says that he often trains the backpackers for 3 weeks. However, when they leave after just a couple of months, it drains his resources. However, including countries like India and Brazil will help address the labour crunch as they are more accustomed to the environment on a farm.
Mr Sidhu, however, says that the permanent solution to this problem is an Agriculture Visa.
Working Holiday Visa applicants must meet minimum requirements like secondary education and English skills to get one.
Chanamat Singh, a vegetable farmer in Victoria says that English skills should not be a barrier for someone to get this Visa. He says that he looking for workers with farming skills and not English.
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