SYDNEY, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- The impact of COVID-19 on overseas travel has left many Australian farmers short-handed during peak harvesting and processing seasons.
To help urgently fill the gap, authorities have granted special approval for workers from the nearby Pacific Islands to enter Australia and take up roles in the agriculture sector.
The first planeload of arrivals from Fiji touched down in Australia on Wednesday, part of 350 skilled workers who, after completing two weeks' quarantine, will fill roles in meat processing plants across the State of New South Wales (NSW).
"As we come into the festive season, we know there will be strong demand for fantastic NSW meats," NSW Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall said.
"By helping to facilitate the arrival of these foreign workers, we are helping to take pressure off the supply chain to make sure everyone can enjoy a Christmas roast."
Also on Wednesday approval was granted for 160 workers from the Solomon Islands, Tonga or Vanuatu, to travel to Australia to assist with the labour-intensive tomato harvest.
"The tomato industry is worth more than 50 million Australian dollars (36.7 million U.S. dollars) to the State's economy, so by providing support to the sector we also give our rural communities that rely on its success a boost."
Marshall said the NSW government was doing everything it could to help facilitate the arrival of foreign workers to minimise supply chain disruption caused by labour shortages due to COVID-19.