Blueberry pickers at a farm in Middle Boambee.
Blueberry pickers at a farm in Middle Boambee.

Berry group preps for influx of seasonal workers

THERE are concerns an influx of seasonal workers on berry farms could pose a Covid risk.

But Berries Australia has moved to assure the community that it is taking a proactive approach to educating NSW berry growers in preparation for the upcoming season.

At the height of the pandemic there were concerns that crops could be left to rot if workers could not be located.

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Berries Australia Executive Director Rachel Mackenzie says the industry body is well aware of the community concerns around an influx of seasonal workers into regional areas and has been working through these issues in berry growing regions around the country.

"The message to protect your workers, protect your business and protect your community is being reinforced through a range of resources and communication activities developed by the peak industry body for Australian berry growers," Ms Mackenzie said.

"We have worked really hard to educate our members on how to manage their risk and have written to every single berry grower in NSW to ensure they understand their legal responsibilities in this space and also provided practical advice and materials."

She says the industry body has engaged with all levels of government to create policy settings to enable access to the necessary seasonal workers while minimising the risk to regional communities.

"The NSW Department of Primary Industries requires that all workers coming from a metropolitan area selfquarantine in-situ for 14 days and all visa holders need to fill in a declaration form which outlines their recent whereabouts."


Blueberry pickers at a Corindi farm.
Blueberry pickers at a Corindi farm.

Berries Australia is recommending that all growers ask each person who steps onto their farm to fill in a disclosure form and run through a daily checklist to reduce the risk of transmission. "To assist our members these templates are available on our website.

"We have also developed pictographic resources that all our members can put up in their sheds around basic social distancing and Covid19 management which can be used across all language groups."

While Covid19 is not transmitted via food, a positive case has the potential to close down an operation and represents a significant risk to the industry.

"Berries Australia is also encouraging members to use the National Harvest Labour Information Service to reduce the likelihood of jobseekers just turning up in regional areas.

"The challenge we have as an industry is how workers behave when they are not on-farm, so we have reached out to local governments to discuss collaborative approaches to accommodation and shared messaging."