10 Most Popular Fruit Picking Jobs in Australia

10 Most Popular Fruit Picking Jobs in Australia

With the Working Holiday Maker Program steering visa holders toward rural work, fruit picking is almost a rite of passage for backpackers in Australia. It not only puts cash in the hand, it’s also an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and see a bit of the real Australia that lays beyond the tourist trail.

According to Backpacker Job Board data, the 10 harvest crops below form the most popular and plentiful fruit picking jobs in Australia. Where can these jobs be found, when is picking season, and what does the work look like? Read on to find out!

What are the most popular fruit harvests in Australia?

banana picking jobs

1. Bananas

Harvest season: Mar-Dec, peak season Jun-Aug | View banana harvest guide

Location: The tropics/subtropics of QLD, NT, WA, northern NSW.

How: Banana harvesting can be laborious work, as bunches are heavy and the bulk of Australian bananas are still harvested by hand: bunches are cut off the stalk with a knife, lowered to the ground with a rope, then hauled onto a truck or trailer. That said, some Australian producers use mechanical harvesting machines called banana spiders that automatically clamp and cut the bunches.

If you feel as though banana picking might be a bit too much for your body to handle, you might find a job in the packing shed, where the bananas are washed and sorted by size and quality.

Find banana picking jobs.

Citrus picking jobs

2. Citrus (oranges, lemons, limes)

Harvest season: Mar-Oct, peak season May-Sep | View citrus harvest guide

Location: NSW, SA, VIC (particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin)

How: While citrus fruits can be harvested mechanically, by shaking the tree so the fruit falls off, for quality purposes most citrus harvesting in Australia is done by hand. Teams of pickers work along the rows of trees, ladders are often needed to get to the higher branches, and some varieties of orange and lemon have thorns on their branches, which can make harvesting a delicate job.

After being transported to a packing shed, the fruit is washed, sorted and graded according to size, colour and quality, then packed.

Blueberry picking jobs

3. Berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)

Harvest season: Strawberries: May-Nov, peak season Aug-Oct | View strawberry harvest guide
Raspberries/Blueberries/Blackberries: Sep-Mar, peak season Dec-Feb | View berry harvest guide

Location: Across Australia, but more widespread in southern states.

How: Most berries are handpicked in Australia – either individually plucked (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries), or combed/raked off with a special tool (blueberries). Mechanical harvesters can gently shake ripe fruit of the plants, but the fragility of berries can make this a risky and at times bruising option.

Picking berries can be finicky work, and pickers will spend a lot of time crouching and bending over, making this a job that can be tough on the legs and back. But the challenges mean that an experienced, efficient berry picker can make good money if they earn a piece rate.

Find blueberry picking jobs.

Cherry picking jobs

4. Stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums, apricots)

Harvest season: Nov-Apr, peak season Dec-Jan | View stone fruit harvest guide

Location: Across Australia, but more widespread in southern states.

How: Because peaches, apricots, nectarines and plums are particularly soft fruit – theybruise like a peach – Australian farmers tend to avoid mechanical harvesting. Fruit is instead harvested by hand, with fruit pickers utilising ladders and picking the riper fruit.

The care that needs to be taken in picking the fruit, combined with the need to constantly shift and climb ladders to get to the upper branches of trees, can make picking stone fruit a time-consuming, labour-intensive process, but one that an efficient picker can earn good money doing.

Find cherry picking jobs.

Grape picking jobs

5. Grapes

Harvest season: Jan-Jun, peak season Feb-May | View grape harvest guide

Location: Across the Southern half of Australia (SA, VIC, WA, NSW, TAS, ACT).

How: Australian grape farmers use two methods to harvest their fruit:

  • Hand-picking: The traditional method, and still the most popular for high-quality wines, hand-picking sees workers use handheld shears to cut grape bunches from vines. Hand-picking allows for selective harvesting, which can be important for achieving the desired quality for premium wines. As many vineyards feature steep terrain, it may also be the only viable method. While it is hard work, the grapes sit at a nice height for pickers, and an efficient worker can earn good money.
  • Machine harvesting: This method sees purpose-built machines straddling the vines, which they shake to dislodge the grapes. The fruit falls onto a conveyor belt and into a collection bin. Machine harvesting is a far more efficient method that requires far fewer workers, but it is only suitable for flat terrain and certain types of grapes, and the quality of the harvest will not be as high as with hand-picking.
Apple picking jobs

6. Apples

Harvest season: Feb-Jun | View apple harvest guide

Location: Southern Australia (TAS, cooler areas of VIC, SA, NSW, WA).

How: Many apple farmers in Australia, particularly those with larger orchards, utilise mechanical harvesting. A machine shakes the tree, and the apples fall onto a conveyor belt and into a collection bin. But this method is not viable for smaller producers, and as it can be rough on the fruit it should be avoided for certain apple varieties.

Hand-picking remains a popular way to harvest apples in Australia. Workers use ladders or platforms to reach the fruit, putting them in baskets or buckets, and can selectively pick apples that are appropriately ripe. Usually done in teams, this can be laborious, slow work, but can be done by any able-bodied individual.

Mango picking jobs

7. Mangoes

Harvest season: Oct-Mar | View mangoes harvest guide

Location: Tropical Australia (QLD, WA, NT).

How: While machine harvesting mangoes is possible, like other stone fruits, mangoes can bruise easily, so this method is generally avoided. Most Australian mangoes are hand-picked, which also ensures that only perfectly ripe mangoes – not too soft and potentially bruised, not too firm and sour – are picked.

Mango pickers use ladders to reach fruit, picking them off the tree one by one. The main challenge of mango harvesting isn’t the work itself, but the conditions in which the work is done: the hot and humid tropical Australian summer (wet season). Doing manual labour in what can be 30+ degree heat and 100% humidity, pickers need to be careful to keep their fluids up and listen to their bodies.

Melon picking jobs

8. Melons

Harvest season: Nov-May, peak season Dec-Apr | View melon harvest guide

Location: Warmer regions of Australia (QLD, NSW, NT, WA).

How: Melons can be machine harvested: a tractor pulls along a specially designed machine which features rubber fingers or paddles attached to belts, which pull melons from the vine. While machine harvesting is becoming more popular in Australia, hand-picking is still by far the most common method.

Melon pickers work down rows of melon vines, cutting the fruit off and placing it into a bucket or crate. This work has a couple of main challenges: first, the weight of the fruit, as a ripe watermelon can weigh up to 30kg. Second, the conditions in which the harvest is conducted: over the tropical/subtropical wet season, when both temperatures and humidity are high.

Avocado picking jobs

9. Avocados

Harvest season: Aug-Mar | View avocado harvest guide

Location: Concentrated in QLD, NSW, WA.

How: As particularly soft fruit, avocados are highly susceptible to bruising, so care needs to be taken during harvesting to ensure the quality of the produce. Pickers will climb ladders and stand on platforms to reach the fruit, which needs to be picked at precisely the right time in order to be desirable to the buyer. For this reason the same trees are picked multiple times throughout the season.

The challenges for the picker are in reaching the fruit (avocado trees can be rather large), picking the fruit at the right time, and ensuring the fragile fruit isn’t damaged in the picking process. There’s a reason that Australian avocados are a high-priced fruit, and a talented picker can make good money if they work for a piece rate.

Pineapple picking jobs

10. Pineapples

Harvest season: Oct-May, peak season Dec-Mar | View pineapple harvest guide

Where: Concentrated in QLD.

How: Pineapples are typically harvested by hand in Australia. The fruit grows at the top of the plant surrounded by tough, spiky leaves. A fruit picker will use a large knife to cut the fruit from the plant – a precise job, as an incorrect cut can easily damage the fruit. The good news is that a pineapple shrub only produces one fruit in its life and dies after harvest, so there’s less worry about damaging the plant.

Once harvested, pineapples are taken back to a shed, sorted by size and quality, then packed for shipment. Pineapples are typically shipped in cold storage to ensure freshness.

Author: Matthew Heyes

Matthew Heyes is the founder of Backpacker Job Board. Currently based in Melbourne, Matthew originates from UK and came to Australia as a backpacker on a working holiday visa. It was during his time backpacking on the east coast of Australia that he built Backpacker Job Board. Find Matthew Heyes on Linkedin