Jobs wanted to keep backpackers in town

HELP wanted.

Apple and grape picking season is still a week away for some Orange producers so they have called on the community to support backpackers until then.

Cargo Road Wines owner James Sweetapple said he had turned away more than 200 backpackers looking for work in the last week, as many of his grapes were not ready to pick.

NSW Farmers Association vice president and Nashdale orchardist Peter Darley has encouraged the Orange community to offer odd jobs to backpackers to encourage them to stay in the area.

Over the past five years, Mr Darley estimates only 5 per cent of his pickers have been Australian, the rest foreign backpackers.

“Without these people we wouldn’t be able to get our fruit harvested,” he said.

French backpacker Ugo Le Coz, 24, was one of many looking for work in Orange on the weekend and said he was open to any job offers.

“I came here to find work but there’s too many backpackers,” he said.

“I’m starting to think about other work now, maybe building construction.”

He said a lack of immediate picking work in Orange may force some backpackers to move on to other towns.

Mr Sweetapple said he had offered backpackers labouring work such as mending fences, painting and cleaning to encourage them to stay in the area until picking season kicked off.

“I think we all rely on them [the backpackers] so we need to look after them,” he said.

“It’s not just fruit picking, they come with other skills. Maybe they could paint a house?”

Mr Darley says some picking at his property will start today, but many orchardists may not be ready for pickers just yet.

“We need these young people to stay here and not be disillusioned,” he said.

Mr Darley said backpackers benefited the entire Orange economy, as they spent money in local businesses and accommodation sectors.

He encourages people who need odd jobs done to talk to backpackers in the caravan park or to contact Verto.

He said the Orange apple picking season was expected to last for eight weeks, while grape picking should run for about five weeks.

nadine.morton@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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