04 August 2020, in a joint media release with Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, the Hon David Littleproud MP, the Hon Michaelia Cash and Dr Sam McMahon, have announced that the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory Governments ‘agreed to conduct a trial aimed at addressing the labour shortages affecting NT farmers’.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on agriculture due to labour shortage in the Northern Territory, which relies heavily on seasonal workers and Working Holiday Makers for food growing, especially mango growing, the Governments have agreed on a targeted trial to meet the labour needs. As per the announcement, initially the programme will be open to Vanuatu citizens only, with possibility of adding more countries later. The Northern Territory Farmer’s Association has forecasted a shortage of 800 to 1,000 workers from August onwards.
Minister Littleproud said, “This trial will see up to 170 workers under the Seasonal Worker Programme come to Australia to help with the 2020 harvest, with more workers to potentially follow subject to a review of the first cohort and approval for additional numbers by the NT Government.”
Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Alan Tudge MP said, “With appropriate quarantine arrangements in place, seasonal and Pacific workers can continue to safely support Australian farmers facing critical workforce shortages…of course, farmers can only employ people under the Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme if they can demonstrate that no Australian is available to do the work.”