Simfresh

‘Best picking season ever’: How recruiting Pacific workers has helped Simfresh grow

Simfresh is a family-owned business with farms in New South Wales and Queensland. The company supplies around 1.8 million boxes of citrus each year to the domestic and export markets. Having recently expanded its growing operations, Simfresh has had difficulty finding enough workers to meet its increased labour needs.

Patricia Aru, ni-Vanuatu worker at Simfresh

Workers helped to set up new farm

Simfresh is a family-owned fruit growing and packing business with farms in Gol Gol in New South Wales and Gin Gin in Queensland.

The company supplies around 1.8 million boxes of citrus fruit each year to the Australian domestic and export markets, and is a major supplier of citrus to Coles.

Having recently expanded its growing operations so it can produce fruit all year round, Simfresh has had difficulty finding enough local workers to meet its increased labour needs.

The company has now turned to the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP) and Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) to help source workers when not enough local labour is available.

Simfresh joined the SWP in September 2018 and recruited workers from Vanuatu straight away to help set up its new citrus farm in Gin Gin, Queensland.

According to operations manager Luke Cini, the SWP workers learned fast and made a big contribution to the business by preparing the farm for next season’s crop.

Another cohort of ni-Vanuatu seasonal workers were hired shortly after to pick the new season’s citrus crop in NSW. Mr Cini said the last harvest season saw “far and away the best picking results we have ever had” thanks to the addition of SWP workers.

Experience has been positive: employer

Simfresh recently decided to join the PLS so it could also source workers for low-skilled and semi-skilled roles including forklift drivers, machine operators and line leaders for packing lines.

The business now employs seven ni-Vanuatu PLS staff in NSW, and Mr Cini said the experience of bringing them to live and work in Australia has been very positive overall.

“One [of the workers] is actually running a complicated and very expensive machine completely on his own,” Mr Cini said.

“The efficiencies they bring to the business will really start to show in the next year or so, and the big difference between [PLS workers] and working holiday makers is that they can stay for longer.”

Recruitment is now under way at Simfresh for an additional three PLS workers, and according to Mr Cini, 50 more will be recruited soon for low-skilled and semi-skilled positions on the farm.

(Location is indicative to the nearest town)