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Jobseekers encouraged to keep picking fruit in new trial

Jobseekers will be able to earn up to $5,000 picking fruit without losing their welfare entitlements, in a new trial to be launched on 1 July 2017 by the Australian Government.

The trial is hoped to assist people living in regional areas fill a seasonal worker gap, reducing the risk of losing their benefits when fruit picking work dries up.

Horticultural producers across Australia were concerned about uncertainty with a backpacker tax rate last year that would cause a shortage of workers for the industry, sparking an increased interest in ways to encourage local people to take up seasonal work.

Some areas in Tasmania's apple growing regions faced picker shortages this season.

Phil Pyke from Fruit Growers Tasmania said the trial is one of many possible solutions he has discussed with the Federal Department of Employment.

"We welcome the trial because it enables people who are on unemployment benefits to move between casual seasonal work and back again, earning up to $5,000 dollars before it affects their benefits," Mr Pyke said.

Mr Pyke said a potential labour pool of up to 16,000 people on some level of benefit across Tasmania could fit into the category for being able to work on farms. 

(From ABC News - 9 May 2017)