Desperate moves to lure workers back to farms has taken a new twist with taxpayer money given to farmers in northern Victoria to build housing.
The Victorian government has handed over more than $1 million to fruit growers in the important horticulture region of Sunraysia to build new accommodation to attract and retain staff.
The loss of overseas backpackers due to pandemic border closures has cost fruitgrowers dearly over the past year, from mangoes in the Top End, to apples in Tasmania.
Efforts to attract Australians to take up the work have had mixed results.
Only small numbers of Pacific Islanders have been able to take advantage of urgent federal programs to help out.
Cash carrots are offered by most states for workers to sign up for harvests.
The federal government is a offering up to $6000 as a relocation allowance to sign up for temporary agricultural work.
Queensland's Agriculture Department estimates there is a shortfall of 9000 workers in that state alone to help with fruit and vegetable harvests.
The Victorian government last month spent more than $1.5 million for new worker accommodation across Mildura and Robinvale through its Agriculture Workforce Plan's Business Adaptation Stream.
This week's announcement was specifically for individual growers.
Cutri Fruit, a family-owned fruit and avocado business near Swan Hill, employs about 14 full-time staff, 30 casuals and up to 200 seasonal workers.
This business has received a $171,490 grant for transportable cabins to provide suitable accommodation for eight workers at its Wood Wood orchard.
Nearby grape grower Sorbara's received $234,910 to install five cabins to accommodate 13 seasonal workers.
Boundary Bend Olives was granted $62,000 to create a temporary caravan park for workers.
Boundary Bend General Store and Restaurant received $84,000 to build accommodation for up to 16 workers.
Mildura City Backpackers and the Wood Wood Caravan Park also received grants to increase accommodation capacity for seasonal workers.
Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said suitable accommodation, transport and training are all issues that can stop local workers from joining the seasonal harvest.
"We've helped secure a mix of international and local workers to support agriculture businesses now and for future seasons - these programs will empower industry to find long-term solutions to suit their sectors and their region."
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