Consumers will pay more for fresh fruit and vegetables in coming months if problems with seasonal worker shortages, including for farmers in the Sunraysia, aren’t addressed
This week, a report commissioned by Hort Innovation revealed a shortfall of 26,000 workers is expected this year as a result of coronavirus shutdowns that closed international and domestic borders.
Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh was in Mildura yesterday to speak to industry representatives about solutions to the looming crisis.
“The agriculture sector has been banging the drum for months desperately seeking a solution to seasonal worker shortages, but the Andrews Labor Government has failed to act,” Mr Walsh said.
“It was Labor’s disastrous hotel quarantine program that led to the second wave and prompted other states to slam their borders with Victoria shut.
“That, coupled with the caps on international arrivals has seriously hamstrung the sector’s ability to attract the workforce numbers it needs to get the fruit off the trees.”
The National Farmers Federation labelled the data on the expected shortfall ‘alarming and must be a catalyst for governments’, while industry body AusVeg warned any workforce shortages would see price impacts for the consumer.
Mr Walsh said industry was happy to comply with COVID rules but that without the workforce, packing sheds and cold stores wouldn’t operate.
“The Andrews Labor Government is putting the cart before the horse demanding COVID Safe Plans for workplaces that will have no workers if the problems aren’t fixed,” Mr Walsh said.
“Daniel Andrews and his Agriculture Minister continue to demonstrate they’re out of their depth when it comes to agriculture.
“The seasonal worker accommodation assistance again missed the mark as there are simply no available workers to relocate and accommodate in the state’s horticulture zones.”