Palmview’s Strawberry Fields forever busy
THE Sunshine Coast is set for its annual red-berry boon with backpackers settling in for the strawberry picking season.
Foreigners keen to complete employment requirements for their working travel visas are queued up waiting to start plucking fruit from Sunshine Coast strawberry farms.
Palmview's Strawberry Fields farm manager Brendon Hoyle said the earliest of the season's bounty had already been harvested, with operations expected to increase in the coming weeks.
"About now is when we start to build the numbers up," Mr Hoyle said.
"We'll probably employ around 50 to 55 pickers and packing staff will probably be up to 35 or 40 in the shed."
He said his farm generally sought backpacker workers from hostels on the Coast.
"But with the advent of social media and the internet we get a lot of inquiries through Facebook and these are referrals from friends of friends from all over the globe.
"We've got Irish, French and a lot of Taiwanese and Koreans as well."
He said he hoped to keep workers until the end of the season, which was usually October.
"The less turnover we can have the better off we are."
Mooloolaba Backpackers staff member Shannon Mauger said there were about 80 people living off site who had registered on the strawberry work waiting list.
Mrs Mauger said about another 15 were living at the backpackers waiting for work.
She said they received daily inquiries from backpackers wanting to add their names to the lists.
The interest has helped lift accommodation demand during the winter months.
"It is definitely business we normally wouldn't get," Mrs Mauger said.
She said the hostel had agreements with farmers to ensure the workers could get to the farm on time, with the right provisions to get them through a day in the sun.
"We can usually get enough workers for each farm."
Queensland Strawberries industry development officer Jennifer Rowling said the Coast could expect between 2500 to 3000 workers to come in over the picking and packing season.
Mrs Rowling said having backpacker accommodation available was a great help.
"They don't have that down in the Moreton (strawberry growing) area where there are issues with accommodation," Mrs Rowling said.
She said the direct link between growers and workers eliminated the risk of exposure to some dodgy labour hire operators.
"We want to make sure the backpackers have good accommodation and aren't being placed in houses and things that aren't appropriate."