Growers and packers are concerned about the cost burden of hiring Pacific Islander seasonal workers who are required to quarantine to help fill the labour shortage for the upcoming citrus harvest.

Key points:

  • Growers will have to contribute $2,500 per seasonal worker
  • A total of 1,200 workers from the Pacific Islands will fill SA’s seasonal labour shortage
  • Citrus SA initially called for a travel bubble with the Pacific Islands to minimise costs

The South Australian Government announced yesterday a dedicated COVID-19 quarantine facility would open in the state’s Riverland region.

The Paringa Resort has been converted and will house 1,200 seasonal workers from the Pacific Islands over the next three months, with the requirement they quarantine for 14 days at the facility upon arrival.

Approved employers under the seasonal worker program will have to contribute $2,500 per worker.

The seasonal workers will be quarantined in the converted Paringa Resort in the Riverland.(

ABC News: Anita Ward


Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development David Basham said the first 200 workers to fill the seasonal worker shortage were expected to arrive early next month.

He said the $7 million program would be jointly funded by the Marshall Government and industry.

The seasonal workers will start to harvest fruit in early April.(

ABC News: Laurissa Smith


‘Can’t get my head around it’

However, many citrus farmers and packing operators are baffled by the high cost per seasonal worker and have demanded an explanation from the State Government.

Venus Citrus will employ 130 seasonal workers across its operation.(

Supplied: Venus Citrus


Helen Aggeletos, managing director of Venus Citrus in Loxton, said while she welcomed the program that would allow her to employ 130 of the seasonal workers, she had been left in the dark after being originally informed the cost per worker would be $1,500.

“We need an explanation why this additional $1,000 has been added at the last minute,” Ms Aggeletos said.

“I can’t quite get my head around why the cost is a lot more than some of your hotel costs or some other states, where in some areas they are not costing them anything.”

Ms Aggeletos said the high cost was a significant economic burden for the industry, especially for growers who already had additional outputs due to the fruit fly outbreaks in the region.

The State Government said in a statement to the ABC that the cost of hotel quarantine in Adelaide for seasonal workers would have been around $1,500 per worker with the benefit of a $500 state government subsidy.

“With the Adelaide hotel quarantine program full of returned Australians, the government has had to work with industry to secure a safe regional quarantine facility for seasonal workers,” the statement said.

Citrus SA chair Mark Doecke says the program will bring much needed labour for growers in the state.(

ABC News: Isabel Dayman


Citrus SA chairman Mark Doecke also admitted the cost was a high burden for growers to bear, but was necessary to ensure the fruit was picked in time.

Citrus industry proposed travel bubble

The state’s peak citrus industry body said it would have been desperately short of workers without the seasonal worker program.

However, Mr Doecke initially proposed a travel bubble with the Pacific Islands to cut costs for growers.

Due to the pandemic growers face a severe labour shortage.(

Supplied: Milan Scheunemann


“If you had a travel bubble you wouldn’t have that cost burden,” Mr Doecke said.

“We just find ourselves in this position because of a couple of reasons, we can’t get Australians and there’s no, or limited, backpackers in the country now because of COVID.”

Despite the additional cost to secure workers, Mr Doecke said he was confident growers in the region would be able to harvest their crops in time.

Meanwhile in Victoria, Sunraysia Citrus Grower chairman Kevin Cock said it was unlikely Victoria would receive any workers from the SA program, but it could have a flow-on effect.

The Pacific Islander workforce means citrus growers will be able to harvest their crops in time.(

ABC Rural: Laurissa Smith


“That will hopefully free it up for labour to come across and harvest our fruit.”

With navel harvest one month away, Mr Cock said Sunraysia needed a program but the costs associated with the quarantine program would only be suitable for the large, corporate growers.

“They have to quarantine, and somebody has to pay for it and we’ll have to try and pass it on to the consumer to get a return,” he said.