They are an important part of Australia’s agricultural economy, but fruit picker backpackers face the challenge of preventing COVID-19 from entering the region.
The Queensland government has moved to protect its rural communities from overseas visitors, who can extend their visas by completing a period of agricultural work.
The country needs tens of thousands of workers to do work on agriculture, including picking and processing fruit, during the winter months.
“We want to ensure our seasonal workers comply with safe measures for COVID,” Queensland Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
The government has endorsed a blueprint policy for backpackers that requires them to have a permit.
They also need to show where they work and live.
“What we don’t want to see are backpackers who lived on top of each other during this COVID period,” Palaszczuk said.
Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said workers were needed to provide “food for the whole country” and to several export markets.
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“We need around, on average per month, 10,000 workers to help on the farm,” he said.
The backpacking community has been linked to the spread of COVID-19 in Australia after NSW authorities revealed an outbreak among groups at Bondi in Sydney.
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