Urgent call for on-farm quarantine
NSW Farmers has joined the National Farmers Federation (NFF) in calling for on-farm quarantine arrangements to alleviate urgent worker shortages.
In New South Wales, mandatory hotel quarantine is creating a bottleneck the agriculture sector cannot afford to face as it scrambles to get workers to farms in time for summer harvests.
The proposal from the lead farming organisations is for a limited pilot of on-farm quarantine for 200 agricultural workers from low-risk countries, to begin once 70 per cent of the adult population is vaccinated. If successful, the pilot could be rolled out state- or nation-wide.
“The hotel quarantine system in NSW is causing unnecessary delays to the timely movement of workers to farms,” NSW Farmers President James Jackson said.
“The availability of hotel quarantine places in NSW is limited and further constrained by Sydney’s disproportionately high intake of returning residents.
“We acknowledge the subsidy the NSW Government has put in place to halve the cost of hotel quarantine applicable to agricultural workers, but the cost remains prohibitive to many farm enterprises, particularly the smaller ones.”
With the majority of NSW residents now vaccinated, and the nation learning to live with COVID, NSW Farmers and the NFF believe a streamlined on-farm model can be delivered at substantially less than the cost of hotel quarantine while effectively managing COVID risk.
“After years of drought, our farmers are finally facing the prospect of record-breaking harvests,” Mr Jackson said.
“Labour shortages are the main barrier standing in their way, so we need as many tools as possible to get harvests off the ground.
“For us, on-farm quarantine is a no-brainer that could improve the likelihood of workers reaching Australia in time for harvests.”
A letter co-signed by NSW Farmers and the NFF has been sent to the state and federal governments, and their respective ministers.
Date: Tuesday, October 5, 2021
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