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Backpackers to help with Young harvest

Date

By John Thistleton

Cherrygrower Barisha Batinich and son Lachlan 4, check trees.

Cherrygrower Barisha Batinich and son Lachlan 4, check trees. Photo: Jay Cronan

French backpackers are about to help Young's cherrygrowers strip off one of their best crops in years.

In red dust under a baking sun adventure-seeking backpackers in their early 20s from all over the world will toil and camp on the rolling hills around Young for five months if the season stays ideal.

Organising labour is crucial to regional farmers bringing in bumper grain and fruit crops and their fine wool.

Barisha Batinich inspects budding fruit.

Barisha Batinich inspects budding fruit. Photo: Jay Cronan

VERTO harvest labour consultant Sarah McAlister says favourable conditions could create up to 2500 picking jobs in Young, 80 per cent of which will be filled by backpackers, followed by grey nomads and locals.

''Growers will ring us requiring a whole workforce for the following day. This can literally change five times a day as the weather changes,'' she said.

Bookham grazier Alan Ticehurst said overseas workers would get a real shock if they attempted shearing.

Aside from the tough work which required peak fitness, shearers needed skill removing fleeces.

''There are easier jobs these days. You find it difficult even to get shed hands and wool classers.

''People from overseas would get a real shock, it's hard work.''

In a review of agribusiness labour, Rimfire Resources found technical roles on the land hard to fill, and a reluctance to use overseas labour.

Rimfire managing director Mick Hay said agribusiness was facing extreme competition for skills.

Negative publicity from the long drought years had turned people away from agriculture, and science-based agronomy and technical roles had suffered, even though salaries were keeping pace with sectors such as manufacturing and retail.

''And the longer the market is tight, the more attractive recruiting people from overseas is going to become.''

Ms McAlister said orchardists were well equipped to host foreign backpackers, who were predominantly from France, followed by Taiwan and Korea, then eastern Europe and the United Kingdom, Asia and America.

''Nearly all the orchards have a dedicated camping ground with a kitchen, laundry, amenities block and some even have powered sites.''

Hundreds of pickers can be ready to pick, then sit idle in driving rain.

''The last few seasons we have used social media to give daily updates of positions available,'' Ms McAlister said.

''Our Facebook page (facebook. com/HarvestLabour) is a great way of attracting workers to our area and advertising positions to be filled immediately.''

Ms McAlister said a national harvest information service guided workers travelling around Australia.

''They use this for their second visa requirements. However, for the main part of their stay, you will generally find them working behind bars at tourist destinations or working in hospitality elsewhere.''

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