A report released this week has confirmed the value of migrant workers to horticulture's profitability and productivity.
Carried out by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) and commissioned by the World Bank, the study found that seasonal migrant workers on the Federal Government’s Seasonal Worker Program and ‘backpackers’ on working holiday maker visas provided on-farm benefits.
National Farmers' Federation (NFF) General Manager of Workplace Relations and Legal Affairs Ben Rogers welcomed the findings.
"The report provides statistical evidence of our industry’s lived experience: that migration labour programs are crucial to easing the horticulture sector's labour woes."
The report found workers employed pursuant to the Seasonal Worker Program delivered higher productivity and less staff turnover than working holiday makers, while 'backpackers' could be accessed at short notice to meet urgent demand in peak periods.
The report also suggests the programs would benefit from further streamlining, observing that it is “important that these requirements are designed so that businesses can operate in the program efficiently and cost effectively, in turn contributing positively to farm profitability — while also maintaining safeguards for a vulnerable workforce.”
The study comes as the NFF hosted members of the Fijian Government to discuss their mutual support for, and requirements of, the Seasonal Worker Program.
The delegation included Fijian Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations, Hon. Jone Usamate (pictured below centre) and the Fijian High Commissioner to Australia H.E. Yogesh Punja (second right).
"The Seasonal Worker Program is an important resource in helping farmers to address persistent labour shortages," Mr Rogers said.
"As the ABARES report shows, seasonal workers who return to the same farm in subsequent seasons develop valuable skills and farm knowledge.
"The NFF and the Fijian Government share a commitment to developing the program and ensuring its ongoing success," Mr Rogers said.