AUSVEG, the peak industry body for the Australian vegetable industry, has welcomed the release of the National Labour Advisory Committee’s National Agricultural Workforce Strategy report, saying that while it will not solve the immediate issues for horticulture growers looking for harvest workers this season, the time is ripe for action to address the agriculture industry’s labour issues.
The report aims to ensure farmers have access to a fit-for-purpose workforce and recommends steps for improving the attraction, retention and skill development of the agricultural workforce into the future, which is critical to support the agriculture industry’s goal of increasing its value to $100b by 2030.
AUSVEG CEO James Whiteside said that the report recognised the urgent need to prioritise attracting a sustainable and skilled workforce for agrifood businesses if the industry is to continue to innovate and respond to changing consumer trends and expectations, and that more action is needed to help businesses now.
“The National Agricultural Workforce Strategy report is a significant accomplishment that demonstrates the complexity of agriculture’s workforce issues. We are pleased that the report highlights the importance of developing a fit-for-purpose workforce for the continued development of the industry,” said Mr Whiteside.
“AUSVEG broadly supports the strategy, particularly the recommendations to expand the Working Holiday Maker and Seasonal Worker Programme, regulation of labour hire providers and the establishment of a dedicated Agriculture Data Analysis Unit.”
“Growing businesses and those throughout the supply chain require a workforce that has the skills and the expertise to respond to an increasingly technological and globalise agrifood system so that they can adopt world-leading growing practices and technologies to grow and supply healthy, high-quality fresh produce to local and international consumers.”
“The fact remains that our industry is reliant on international workers, and we are seeing the implications of this now, with their number dramatically reduced due to travel restrictions brought on by the pandemic, resulting in a crippling labour shortage that will impact supply for months to come.”
“Growers will always have a preference to use local workers, so it is critical that government and industry work together to enact some of the recommendations from this report that helps upskill workers to allow businesses to innovate and provides fulfilling career progression opportunities to attract workers to forge long and satisfying careers in the horticulture industry.”
“This report is not enough on its own to kickstart this process – state and federal governments must now work with industry to take the report’s findings and recommendations and work to increase the skill and size of the workforce to ensure horticulture businesses have the workers they need to grow, pack and deliver fresh produce to consumers all across Australia and around the world.”