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Workforce shortages shackling Aussie farms

NSW Farmers president James Jackson with federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese in 2021

A severe labour shortage is continuing to hamper Australian farmers according to the NSW Farmers Association.

The peak body pushed for accessibility of Covid Rapid Antigen Testing kits to be ramped up for regional Australia late last year and there are calls for the avoidable losses of produce and farming income to be further exposed.

The developments in the heartland of Australia’s agricultural sector follow the NSW Farmers' 10 Point Plan released last September highlighting how RAT test accessibility would have drastically assisted farmers.

NSW Farmers President James Jackson, who vented his frustrations on Flow last week, says the ongoing Covid-19 outbreaks have placed the strain farmers are currently enduring firmly under the spotlight.

“If we didn’t have one of the best growing seasons ever our farmers would be in a very different position coming into 2022.”
“Last year we lost fruit and vegetables because they weren’t picked in time and that problem is getting even worse for horticulture.”
“For the croppers, there were harvesters sitting in sheds because there was no-one to drive them, and it was only the sheer scale of the overall harvest that kept the sector from falling down.”

The issue of a widespread worker shortage plaguing Australian industries in the face of the Omicron strain’s transmissibility is also one of the overriding dilemmas for farmers, according to Jackson.

“We can’t keep waiting for governments to act – the disruptions of COVID are not going away any time soon, and we need real action on shoring up our agricultural workforce.”
“It’s all well and good to talk about training workers, but what about the next harvest and the one after that?”
“There are gaps appearing all over the labour market because of Omicron and a lack of RATs to meet public health mandates, and the farmers that grow our food are competing with restaurants and tourism for foreign workers.
“We need to look at all options to encourage work participation, because there are likely people out there who would help if they were allowed to or were not financially disadvantaged by doing so...Long-term reform of the labour market is needed, but we cannot wait years while our crops rot because there aren’t enough workers in the fields now.”


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