Grocery prices look set to skyrocket as Australian farmers are forced to destroy crops after struggling to find enough pickers. 

Farmers across the country have been gearing up for this years harvest which could be one of the biggest the country has seen in five years.

But travel restrictions and border closures have created major problems with sourcing workers to pick the crops. 

Australia’s $14.4 billion horticulture industry relies heavily on workers from the Pacific Islands and backpackers to fill those jobs. 

Farmers are predicting they will struggle to fill the estimated 40,000 harvest positions with less than 8,000 seasonal workers in the country and barely any backpacker arrivals since March. 

Luciano Monte, who runs a farm in Perth, has already been forced to destroy 100,000 market-ready lettuce heads this week due to worker shortages. 

Scroll down for video 

The coronavirus pandemic means Australia needs at least 70,000 foreign backpackers to work on regional farms during harvest season (stock image)

The coronavirus pandemic means Australia needs at least 70,000 foreign backpackers to work on regional farms during harvest season (stock image)

His farm usually has about 100 pickers helping them out but for the past two months they’ve been down to just 60.

Fruit and vegetables likely to increase in price: 

Mango

Lettuce

Cauliflower

Broccoli

‘Come by Christmas time there’ll be no fruit and veg on the shelves,’ he told 7news.

He said all growers were having to destroy crops as they struggled to keep up with demand. 

‘It’s every single grower mate, everyone’s doing the same.’ 

National Farmers Federation president Tony Mahar has warned food prices will skyrocket as a result of worker shortages. 

‘There could be a reduction in the supply of products because it just won’t be able to be picked in time,’ Mr Mahar told The Australian

‘There will be an increased cost in products because of the delay and demand for labour. People may have to be paid more and it might cost more to get the crop off.’

Farmers are predicting they will struggle to fill the estimated 40,000 harvest positions with less than 8,000 seasonal workers in the country and barely any backpacker arrivals since March.

Western Australia’s Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Steve Thomas, has urged the state government to ease border restrictions to allow foreign farm workers in. 

A farmer checks his wheat crop as it grows in a paddock on his property near Gunnedah, New South Wales, on August 25, 2020

A farmer checks his wheat crop as it grows in a paddock on his property near Gunnedah, New South Wales, on August 25, 2020

A farmer on a tractor sprays his crop in north west New South Wales on May 05, 2020 in Dungowan, Australia. Rain across the region has helped ease conditions of the current drought which began in 2017

A farmer on a tractor sprays his crop in north west New South Wales on May 05, 2020 in Dungowan, Australia. Rain across the region has helped ease conditions of the current drought which began in 2017

‘We’re going to need to see these additional workers put in place by October.’

Despite the grim prediction, Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan has urged farmers to look within the state for workers, ABC reported. 

‘Our priority is to employ WA workers,’ he said.

‘In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s time for industry to rethink the way it employs workers and look to locals to fill these roles.’

A parliamentary inquiry set up to replenish the casual workforce has suggested school leavers work as fruit pickers in exchange for a discount on university fees. 

The proposed ‘Australia Needs You’ campaign would also allow the unemployed to earn money working on farms without losing JobSeeker benefits, and provide one-off payments to cover travel and accommodation costs. 

Chair of the inquiry, New South Wales Liberal MP Julian Leeser, released an interim parliamentary report on Tuesday with the ambitious recommendations, which are supported by both sides of parliament.

A farmer walks towards a tractor during the sowing of wheat in a field at a farm near Gunnedah, New South Wales, Australia

A farmer walks towards a tractor during the sowing of wheat in a field at a farm near Gunnedah, New South Wales, Australia

A parliamentary inquiry has proposed 'Australia Needs You', a campaign which would offer school leavers discounts on university fees for doing farm work (stock image)

A parliamentary inquiry has proposed ‘Australia Needs You’, a campaign which would offer school leavers discounts on university fees for doing farm work (stock image)

When the coronavirus pandemic struck in March, labour companies and farmers reported a rise in Australians contacting them for work – but that dropped off as soon as the government announced JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments.  

Global travel restrictions due to COVID-19 also meant school leavers have been unable to take their usual overseas holidays. 

Mr Leeser said if the 40,000 young Australians who have a gap year in the UK, US and Canada worked on farms instead, it would fill the labour shortfall.  

‘Young Australians love adventure, they want to meet other Australians,’ he said. 

‘They want to make some money at a time when a lot of jobs they would otherwise do in hospitality and retail aren’t there.’ 

The interim report recommends the government offer a discount on university HECS fees but has left the final figures up to the Treasurer and Education Minister.  

Unemployed Australians would also be paid for farm work and be allowed to keep their JobSeeker payments under the plan.  

During the consultation, Mr Leeser heard concerns that travels costs would be to high so the committee suggested a travel and accommodation allowance as well.  

Mr Leeser warned action needs to be taken to support farmers who are facing the prospect of not being able to harvest fruit from their trees.   

WHAT ARE THE KEY ‘GAP YEAR AT HOME’ RECOMMENDATIONS? 

The Committee recommends ‘Have a Gap Year at Home Campaign’ to attract young Australians, particularly the current cohort of Year 12s and university graduates, to undertake regional work

For the next 12 months, workers should still receive JobSeeker payments while undertaking low paid agricultural and horticultural work

A one-off payment to help with the travel and accommodation costs incurred

Changes to the Working Holiday Maker visa for the next 12 months to allow extensions in exchange for regional work 

Offer incentive to international students who have completed their studies to stay longer in exchange for work in peri-urban, regional, rural and remote parts of Australia

Government recommended a review in 12 months 





Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here