National Farmers' Federation

Farm worker shortage bites as picking begins, farmers urged to consider Plan B

Australia’s farm sector is facing a serious workforce shortage exacerbated by international and state COVID-19 travel restrictions as the picking of citrus and summer fruits gets underway.

National Farmers’ Federation Chief Executive Tony Mahar said concern was growing about farmers’ ability to access the workers they need to get the job done.

“Like fruit and vegetable growers, wool producers are also concerned about getting the clip off without the usual cohort of visiting New Zealand shearers in time for the peak spring shearing season and grain growers are nervous about meeting their labour needs, ahead of what’s shaping up to be a bumper crop come October, November and December.”

Mr Mahar said farmers typically relied on a mix of domestic and international labour.

“This year, access to international labour through schemes such as the Seasonal Worker Program and the Working Holiday Maker Program has been significantly cut.

“While, agriculture is an essential service and many aspects of the agriculture supply chain, have been granted an exemption, the movement of people even across state borders remains fraught,” Mr Mahar said.

“The NFF and our members are working with Federal and state Government on solutions to help assure farmers have access to the workforce they need.

“Currently, however there is no silver bullet and safeguarding the health of the community is the number one priority.

“We’re urging farmers to take the time to develop ‘Plan B’ for their farm’s labour needs, based on an assumption that they will have limited to no access to a foreign workforce.”

The NFF has today launched a new online resource to connect Australian job seekers with employment opportunities in agriculture.

“With many Australians now looking for work, it makes sense to do more to highlight the job and career opportunities in agriculture and the regions,” Mr Mahar said.

The Australian Farm Jobs resource at https://farmhub.org.au/australian-farm-jobs/ collates the key websites where farm jobs are listed and encourages farmers to register their ‘positions vacant’. The site also provides useful links to estimated earnings from various farm jobs and skills.

Farmers and job seekers can also refer to NFF’s COVID-19 WorkForce Guide for advice on best-practice measures to safeguard the health of workers, farmers and communities when preparing for and carrying out farm work.

Mr Mahar said doing more to attract Australians to farm jobs must be a part of agriculture’s workforce solution.

“We know the part time and seasonal nature of some farm work, doesn’t suit everyone. However, we urge job seekers to keep an open mind about what’s on offer. They may be surprised about how much they can earn in agriculture and horticulture, in some cases, up to $1000 per week.”

Job seekers and farmers are encouraged to utilise the Australian Farm Jobs Resource at https://farmhub.org.au/australian-farm-jobs/

Mr Mahar said the exact quantum of the COVID-19-induced farm workforce shortage was unknown.

“To help us understand the gravity of the problem, the NFF is asking farmers to estimate their labour requirements for the next 12 months by completing a short survey.”

Complete the Farm Workforce Survey here.

Media Contact
Laureta Wallace
GM, Media & Communications
0408 448 250

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