Queensland's horticulture industry is receiving a much-needed lift with the state government deciding to extend its Pacific labour program - continuing to bring in seasonal workers from Pacific Island nations to quarantine and work on farm.
International travel restrictions have cost the state's horticulture industry millions. In January, crop losses across the country directly as a result of ongoing labour shortages eclipsed $43 million, according to the National Farmer's Federation's Lost Crop register.
More than 930 seasonal workers have arrived and successfully quarantined in Queensland since the trial began in November last year, according to the state government.
The trial was due to end this month, but Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the success of the program is what has brought the extension. "They've been able to help harvest crops while completing their quarantine, helping Queensland farmers get great produce to supermarkets and homes right across the country," he said.
The Palaszczuk government has identified agriculture as an important part of Queensland's Unite and Recover plan for economic recovery, and keeping Pacific workers on farm is key to that plan.
The government will also consider proposals for industry-led regional quarantine facilities that could host larger numbers of seasonal workers and assist smaller farms who wish to host seasonal workers.
"We are committed to supporting our hard-working producers to get more seasonal workers onto farms, but any regional quarantine solution will need to be approved by Queensland's Chief Health Officer," Mr Furner said.
He said more than 200 workers are currently taking part in the Back to Work in Agriculture incentive scheme, which involves payments of up to $1500 to assist with costs associated with travelling and staying in regional, rural and remote locations.