The national peak body for citrus growers has expressed concerns that a lack of seasonal workers due to the federal government's travel ban could affect harvest returns.
The federal government had implemented a travel ban on March 20 for non-residents and non-citizens, leaving workers due to head to the country from Pacific nations to help for upcoming harvests in the lurch.
Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock said workers authorised through the federal government's Seasonal Worker Program - which operates a pilot program in the Riverina - is critical to ensuring the industry has enough labour power to harvest an estimated 750,000 tonnes of lemons, oranges, limes and grapefruit.
"We will require thousands of workers," he said.
"Unfortunately, the travel ban has stopped these employees from arriving, leaving our citrus growers with no options.
"We have written to all relevant Ministers for an immediate exemption to this travel ban for all individuals who have already been approved to enter Australia under this program."
MIA grower Vito Mancini from Redbelly Citrus said while a shortage will affect those growers in the Riverina who do use seasonal workers - predominately around Hillston and Griffith - any local citrus harvest should not be greatly impacted by a shortage due to the stop-start process done by many growers throughout the region which seasonal workers cannot cater for.
However, he said a long-lasting seasonal worker shortage could lead to knock-on effects for smaller growers, as larger corporate growers could be forced to dip into the itinerant and local workforce to increase their number of harvesters, leading to a smaller pool of labourers for smaller growers.
"If we start having a shortage in one area of the workforce, it will make an impact," Mr Mancini said.
"[Growers who use seasonal workers] try to get the same people back so they are skilled up and familiar with the individual processes ... it will be a hit to those that use those services.
"It's a matter of managing it the best we can and calling on the government to help us out to immobilise the workforce."
Mr Mancini said with the virus causing a heavy impact on the nation's hospitality industry, a way of helping to alleviate a potential shortage in seasonal workers is to encourage members temporarily out of work to take up harvest work, suggesting the government could look at a scheme encouraging workers to earn extra income harvesting alongside any unemployment payments arising from the economic impact of the virus.
"All it takes is one per cent of that workforce, that will get our harvest done," Mr Mancini said.
Mr Hancock said "there has always been plenty of work for everybody" when it comes to harvesting citrus and encouraged those suffering from downturns in certain industries.
"In recent years, less Australians have wanted to pick fruit," Mr Hancock said.
"But we welcome anyone looking for work to come back."