Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Harvest pickers here for the season

A diverse range of pickers have arrived in the Goulburn Valley to help with the annual harvest.

CATHY WALKER January 7, 2014 12:00am

Harvest Labour Office and BackpackersVaughan Adams, Glenda Hughes, Denise Elliot


There’s little guesswork in Vaughan Adams’ job.

He just has to watch the weather reports or read the agricultural news to follow how the fruit season is progressing and he can pretty much sum up how busy the CVGT Australia Harvest Labour Office will be.

‘‘We have one contract for the Shepparton and Cobram regions,’’ Mr Adams said.

As the company’s manager for Shepparton his bailiwick is much broader than just looking after fruit pickers.

But he said the backpackers, grey nomads and travelling Australian pickers that CVGT helps find a job are as regular as the seasons.

Mr Adams said Harvest Labour Office was open from November until May.

‘‘There are still some apricots being picked but at the moment it’s the calm before the storm,’’ he said.

The cycle goes something like this: cherries in November/December, apricots December for early January, peaches and pears late January and February and apples from February through to the late variety, Pink Lady, in May.

‘‘The apricot crop has been okay, a bit down on last year but probably back to a more normal year,’’ Mr Adams said.

On any given day, people seeking work are encouraged to show up early in the morning — the office opens at 8.30am — to see what is available.

‘‘They’re not only internationals, but 95 per cent of the people that come through the harvest office are backpackers,’’ Mr Adams said.

‘‘There are grey nomads looking to top up their income and good local people following the (picking) trail.

‘‘Anyone is welcome to come in and register.’’

Mr Adams said the job service was government-subsidised and was free both to growers and pickers, and the heavy emphasis on internationals was to be expected.

‘‘They don’t have a network whereas the experienced pickers pick for the same farms every year.’’

He said from the growers’ perspective it was a no-brainer to use a labour provider.

‘‘Some farmers use labour hire contractors. The good thing about us is we are a central point and we don’t send anyone out without a visa check.’’

For the pickers, Mr Adams said ‘‘if they come through us at least they will be dealing with the farmer’’.

He said while they almost never had complaints from employees regarding payment by farmers, some contractors could be more problematic.

‘‘Some contractors take their slice out of the pickers’ wages and from the backpackers’ perspective they don’t know the good from the bad,’’ Mr Adams said, adding that CVGT also dealt with reputable labour contractors.

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