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Wanted: Hundreds of jobs for the picking

Posted: 5pm 23 Jul 2020

If you’re looking for work, there are hundreds of jobs on offer on strawberry farms in the Moreton Bay Region and they need to be filled fast.

The winter picking season is nearing its peak north and west of Caboolture with tonnes of berries, but many farms are crying out for more pickers to harvest their crops.

Some pickers will be able to earn more than $50 an hour and maybe more, but many farms are still well below the workforce numbers they need.

It is estimated the Moreton Bay Region needs 1000 more pickers after many who were hope to head north are stuck in Victoria due to the COVID outbreak.

Rodney Prestia, who owns Queensland Farm Management and Training in Caboolture, says in two weeks his organisation will need “100 more pickers”.

Recruiting now

“We employ 600 people, at the moment we’re hovering around 350,” he says. “We’ve never had to recruit before. Now, we are advertising aggressively.

“The work’s not easy, but it’s also not overly hard. You are sitting in a trolley and it’s not strenuous on your back.

“You can be working from dawn to dusk and the hours get to some people, but we are always trying to make the best of it for our employees. If we look after them, we hope to retain them.

“Some of our pickers can earn $55-$60 an hour. I’ll gladly take a cup of hot cocoa out to those guys. They are picking something like 300-350kgs of strawberries a day.”

Gavin Scurr, at Pinata Farms in Wamuran, agreed. In May, he told Moreton Bay Tough: “It’s not a hard job, but it’s constant work. Each individual strawberry needs to be harvested by hand and packed by hand.

“It’s labour-intensive. It’s a pretty nice environment, it’s not too hot, the weather’s glorious (this time of year). It’s a nice part of the world, but if you’re a local, you already know that.”

Searching for pickers

When the COVID-19 first hit, many backpackers returned home. The second wave currently hitting Melbourne and Sydney is having a similar impact.

When restrictions were first introduced, many café workers, suddenly out of a job, looked to farm work. Rodney says at that time he was “turning staff away”.

But now, with restrictions eased and cafes reopening, many of those job hunters have gone back, leaving fruit farms searching for pickers.

However, one of the overseas pickers with QFMT said on the company’s Facebook page: “When I lost my job due to Corona, I contacted Roy, the boss of QFMT.

“I've been working on this farm for three months, but my feelings change while I work, and I'm surprised by myself thinking about working until the season off in four months.”

There are around 80 strawberry growers in Queensland, the majority in the Caboolture region. In 2018-19, Queensland produced 42 per cent of Australia’s strawberries.

For more on job vacancies for pickers visit www.qfmt.com.au and www.pinata.com.au

Want more news and updates? Head to our blog.

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