AUSVEG is concerned that backpackers won’t be the only ones to suffer from the Federal Government’s decision to raise the cost of working holiday visas by nearly 30%, with hundreds of vegetable growers facing a potential loss of their seasonal workforce as backpackers may not be able to afford these costs.
“The impact of this visa price-hike will not only discourage travellers to visit Australia but it will also detrimentally affect vegetable growers and other producers around the country, who rely on the seasonal flow of workers to help on-farm,” said AUSVEG National Marketing Manager, Simon Coburn.
“Many vegetable growers rely on backpackers with working visas to assist them during the busiest times of year. Growers’ labour needs fluctuate as many vegetable products are seasonal in nature,” said Mr Coburn.
AUSVEG is the National Peak Industry Body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.
“We need to look at the bigger picture here. By increasing the cost of the visa we may lose potential new travellers who simply cannot afford the new costs or have the opportunity to work elsewhere at a lower cost to them.
“This would mean our growers would be at a disadvantage because they do not have access to this vital source of labour,” said Mr Coburn.
The decision was announced by the Federal Government yesterday as part of the mid-year economic fiscal outlook and stated that the working holiday maker visa will increase by 28%, from $280 to $360, from 1 January 2013.
“On-farm labour is one of the biggest costs to vegetable businesses and the industry spends millions of dollars each year on research and development (R&D) to try and create new and innovative ways to be less reliant on labour,” said Mr Coburn.
“The Government should not be targeting backpackers – who come not just for a holiday but also to serve a purpose – and help out our growers who are already doing it tough in this economic climate,” said Mr Coburn.
“It is not worth the risk for the Government to pocket an extra $80 from these workers, when it may discourage them from visiting our country and assisting the Australian vegetable industry,” said Mr Coburn.