Hopes border opening will help NSW farmers

·2-min read

NSW farmers are hoping the opening of international borders will ease the critical labour shortage in the agriculture industry as they try to harvest "a sensational crop with very few workers".

Premier Dominic Perrottet on Friday announced international arrivals won't have to isolate when entering NSW if they are fully vaccinated and test negative for the virus before and after their flight.

Agriculture Adam Marshall says the removal of quarantine requirements should ease the labour crisis on farms.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to bolster the state's agricultural workforce which has been decimated by the COVID-induced border closures," he said.

Forecasts show this season's crop will tip 16.08 million tonnes but farmers desperately need labourers who often come from Pacific nations.

NSW Farmers President James Jackson warned there was still a massive task ahead for primary producers grappling with the problem of a once in a generation "sensational crop" with few workers.

"This is a positive step but our farmers are still in a very desperate situation.

"They are trying to source workers for harvest and even though the removal of quarantine will help, we are concerned the workers won't arrive in time," Mr Jackson said.

"The state government has opened a window to the world and now we need harvest workers to go to the farms where they're needed."

This week the NSW government announced public servants would be given one week's paid 'harvest leave' to help bring in crops, but Mr Jackson said it was only a small fraction of the workers actually needed.

"There is a shortfall of at least 10,000 harvest workers this season, and that's because of the COVID restrictions we've had in place," he said.

"Now that vaccination rates are rapidly rising and we have access to rapid antigen testing, we need to pull out all the stops if we are to have any hope of avoiding waste and lost income.

The Public Service Association has lodged a dispute over the plan to offer staff at the Department of Regional NSW week-long harvest leave, citing a failure to consult with the union, particularly around safety concerns.

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