MORE than 7000 domestic seasonal workers have been attracted to the agricultural sector through $20-million worth of government incentives, senate estimates has revealed.
The AgMove program was launched at the end of 2020, offering Australians $2000 in relocation costs after two weeks of seasonal labour and an additional $4000 after four weeks work, with smaller amounts offered to temporary visa holders.
So far, a total of 7146 people have taken part in program, which will run until the end of June, with an average of $1600 claimed.
Previous attempts to lure domestic workers have been scrapped after attracting just a few hundred people. AusVeg spokesman Tyson Cattle said although the industry was struggling with labour shortages, the AgMove take up was "definitely a positive sign".
"Throughout the pandemic we tried everything and this was one of the early adoptions, so it's good to see some decent numbers," Mr Cattle said.
"It has proven some level of success and certainly help some growers get through this difficult period."
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the program was a great way to see Australia, particularly for students on a gap year, while offering the experience of a lifetime and the opportunity to make good money.
"The government has worked hard to attract workers to get agriculture products from the farm to your plate," Mr Littleproud said.
Despite the program's success, the horticulture industry does not see it as a long-term solution.
"We would be keen to explore more of the data and get an understanding of how many continue to pursue a career in agriculture after their six weeks was up," Mr Cattle said.
"But as an industry, we're not interested in short-term incentives - they're good to fulfil a need but we need a more reliable and stable workforce."
The government has pitched its ag visas as a long-term solution, the rollout of which was the subject of a slagging match during senate estimates.
The visas are aimed out South East Asian nations, however none are yet to sign up, with the government blaming the Australian Workers Union for slowing negotiations by spooking foreign ambassadors with stories of worker neglect.
Under questioning about the progress of the ag visa negotiations, Senator Bridget McKenzie told Labor senators to "tell the AWU to shut their traps".
Foreign Minister Marise Payne promised the Prime Minister and Mr Littleproud to have at least one nation signed up by the end of February.
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