06 March 2009

Australian farming industry absorbing displaced miners

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After hundreds of job-losses in the Australian mining industry, farmers have been enjoying a much-needed influx of young labourers looking for work.

Since the Australian economy began to slide, more than 15,000 workers have been absorbed into the farming industry, causing a 10 per cent increase in farming production in the last quarter.

National Farmers' Federation president David Crombie said most of the workers are those returning after the mining boom started to contract.

"Anecdotally, we’re hearing a significant proportion of those are coming back to agriculture from the mining sector," he said.

According to Fairfax Digital, Crombie says farmers have the capacity to expand their workforce further and continue its strong rates of growth, which is becoming increasingly important while key markets such as mining lose their steam.

"It’s often taken for granted, but the Australian farm sector is as vital to the Australian economy today as ever before.  Even at the peak of the mining boom, agriculture still accounted for 20pc of our national exports.

"Mining booms come and go, but Australian agriculture is the constant that gives the Australian economy the surety it needs during good and turbulent times."

Farmers would also be benefiting in labour terms from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's (DIAC) new rules for working holidaymakers and the pilot guest worker scheme. 

Holders of an Australian working holiday visa can have one of these types of visas per lifetime, unless they work in a specified occupation in rural Australia for three months or more, in which case they may apply for a second working holiday visa.  An Australian working holiday visa allows nationals aged 18 to 30 years from specific countries to work and holiday in Australia for up to twelve months.

The pilot guest worker programme gives 5,000 Pacific Islanders from Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Vanuatu special Australian visas to work in specified horticultural regions of Australia suffering from a labour shortage.  The visas last expire after seven months, but can be renewed the following year.

Both initiatives are aimed at attracting more labour to the farming regions of Australia so that farms can retain maximum productivity rates.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to Australia.

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