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Australia: Queensland govt could give fruit picking students discounts on their college fees

The Queensland government is considering giving students discounts on their university fees if they pick fruit and vegetables in the state. Under the proposed plan to fill a shortage of backpackers due to coronavirus, those on welfare could also potentially keep their JobKeeper payments and earn a wage.

"Incentivising them to go out in their anniversary holidays or those who might go on a gap year," Agriculture Minister David Littleproud told 9News.

Normally, some 180,000 backpackers come to Australia on working holiday visas, but that number has dropped to just 70,000.

Richard Shannon from GrowCom: "We continue to lose backpackers back overseas, a significant part of our labour pool. We need to replace them with Queenslanders."

Some farms in the Lockyer Valley region employ up to 200 people to work over 280 hectares of land, yet with the onset of the global pandemic workers are scarce.

Allegedly, Queensland's usual number of 25,000 pickers could drop by up to 7,000 people over the next 12 months. If the government does come up with a solution soon, there will almost certainly be an upwards pressure on grocery prices.

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