About 1200 South Pacific fruit pickers are expected to arrive in South Australia to help fill critical shortages of seasonal agriculture workers.

The SA government’s attempts to encourage unemployed locals to take up fruit picking jobs failed to attract sufficient workers.

A regional COVID-19 quarantine facility has been set up to house the foreign workers in the Riverland at Paringa, about 270km east of Adelaide.

“The State Government has made a significant push to encourage unemployed locals to take up fruit picking this year but unfortunately not enough people have rallied to the call and foreign workers are now a critical need,” Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development David Basham said on Sunday.

“With citrus season fast approaching it is critical we deliver a safe solution to fill our seasonal worker shortages to ensure our state’s crops are harvested.”

About 200 workers are expected to arrive in the coming days, with 1,000 more set to fly in over the next few months.

“I know the stress that industry has been facing as the citrus harvest draws closer,” Mr Basham said.

He said protecting the wider community from any risk was the primary focus of the facility.

The workers will be transported directly from the Adelaide airport to Paringa where they will complete 14 days of quarantine before being eligible to work.

A new cohort of fruit pickers is set to arrive each fortnight over the next three months under the Commonwealth Seasonal Worker Programme and Pacific Labour Scheme.

The $7 million program is jointly funded by the Marshall Liberal Government and industry.

More than 2600 Pacific Island workers have come into Australia since the outbreak of COVID-19.

None have tested positive for coronavirus.

SA’s primary industries are worth $14.1 billion a year to the state economy.