PHOTO: About 1,200 Pacific Island fruit pickers will arrive soon in South Australian in time for the citrus season. SOURCE: Lukas Coch/EPA

SOURCE: Australian Associated Press, The Guardian

About 1,200 South Pacific fruit pickers are expected to arrive in South Australia to help fill critical shortages of seasonal agriculture workers.

The SA government’s attempts to encourage unemployed locals to take up fruit picking jobs failed to attract enough workers.

A regional Covid-19 quarantine facility has been set up to house the foreign workers at Paringa, about 270km east of Adelaide.

“The state government has made a significant push to encourage unemployed locals to take up fruit picking this year but unfortunately not enough people have rallied to the call and foreign workers are now a critical need,” primary industries and regional development minister David Basham said on Sunday.

“With citrus season fast approaching it is critical we deliver a safe solution to fill our seasonal worker shortages to ensure our state’s crops are harvested.”

About 200 workers are expected to arrive in the coming days, and 1,000 more over the next few months.

“I know the stress that industry has been facing as the citrus harvest draws closer,” Basham said.

He said protecting the community from risk was the primary focus of the quarantine facility.

The workers will be transported directly from Adelaide airport to Paringa where they will complete 14 days of quarantine before being eligible to work.

A new group is set to arrive each fortnight over the next three months under the commonwealth seasonal worker program and Pacific labour scheme.

The $7m program is jointly funded by the government and industry.

More than 2,600 Pacific Island workers have come into Australia since the outbreak of Covid. None have tested positive for coronavirus.

SA’s primary industries are worth $14.1bn a year to the state’s economy.

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