FRUIT growers across the Riverina have welcomed the NSW Government's commitment to subsidise 50 per cent of hotel quarantine costs for international agricultural workers.
The announcement will see the cost of quarantining drop from $3000 to $1500, with Griffith and District Citrus Growers Inc. president Vito Mancini saying it was "the relief we've been waiting on for some time now".
"This will definitely take the pressure off employers and the incoming workers so it's very much what we wanted to hear," he said.
"Although, there are a few concerns still held by many of us around the longevity of the promise."
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Mr Mancini said the subsidy was only valid until the end of the 2020-2021 financial year, meaning workers had two months to organise their arrival and receive the benefit.
"The impact of this pandemic will span far beyond June, so I only hope they can fit it into next year's budget and continue offering that 50 per cent so the agricultural industry can stay afloat," he said.
"The other concern is the fact that there is a cap on how many people can enter the state to quarantine so I hope enough workers are allowed through. In Griffith alone, we will need around 200 in the next couple of months at least."
However, the NSW Government outlined that the agricultural workers would not be included in the 3000 person-per-week arrival cap.
Batlow Fruit Company director and local apple grower Greg Mouat said while the funding was helpful in some ways and certainly not unappreciated, there was almost a sense of it being 'too little too late'.
"We've essentially finished all the work we needed to this season, so it's a bit late in that respect but definitely welcome for the future seasons," he said.
The support will be retrospective, with the subsidy offered to employers who have already incurred the quarantine cost in full over the 2020-2021 financial year.
However, Mr Mouat said many workers would have held back on hiring and struggled to make it through the season successfully before knowing the subsidy was to come.
He said he wished the solution could come from within the country to begin with.
"The fact we have to rely on people overseas is a little disappointing," Mr Mouat said.
"So many Aussies are not prepared to work and engage in the physical labour.
"In our experience, the Pacific Islanders have a great work ethic, they're very good workers, so this announcement will still definitely help with the upcoming cherry season around September."
All seasonal workers approved to quarantine in NSW during the 2020-2021 financial year will be eligible for the subsidy, provided the majority of their work is undertaken in NSW.
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