An fruit picker sorts apples in a Tasmanian orchard

ABARES says fruit and vegetable growers productive regardless of border closures decreasing employee numbers

Australian farmers produced the identical quantity of fruit and greens final 12 months as they did in 2019 regardless of worldwide borders being closed and the horticulture business pleading for extra employees, a research has discovered.

Analysis launched right now discovered the variety of employees employed on fruit and vegetable farms dropped by eight per cent final 12 months, however output remained comparatively unchanged.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Useful resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) discovered the variety of employees dropped by 11,000 in 2020-21 in comparison with the 12 months earlier than.

“Regardless of this, total horticulture output ranges are estimated to have remained comparatively regular, partly attributable to an enchancment in seasonal circumstances,” ABARES government director Jared Greenville mentioned.

“Output has additionally been maintained by way of a spread of variations that many horticulture producers made in response to the decreased availability of abroad employees.”

The analysis, based mostly on farmers surveys, discovered that horticulture farms employed round 135,000 employees throughout 2020-21, together with household, everlasting and contract staff.

ABARES additionally discovered that retail costs for fruit and greens had remained comparatively secure, rising by simply 5 per cent on the try, regardless of distinctive rising circumstances which might usually drive oversupply and decreased retail costs.

In September final 12 months, an industry commissioned report prompt the farm sector can be 26,000 employees quick for the summer time harvest as a result of Australia had closed its borders, in response to COVID-19.

Daniel Walton Australian Workers Union
Daniel Walton from the Australian Employees Union says farmers have overstated the necessity for international employees.(ABC Information)

Farmers overstated scarcity, unions say

The Australian Employees’ Union mentioned the ABARES findings confirmed business had overstated the employee scarcity.

“This knowledge proves what our union has been saying for years: the significance of short-term migrant employees has been massively overstated by the farming foyer,” AWU nationwide secretary Daniel Walton mentioned.

“COVID pressured farms to get smarter and make use of extra Australians and – lo and behold – not solely did the sky not fall in, productiveness truly elevated.

“The federal government ought to take the trace and inform farmers to attempt tougher to make use of Australians on Australian circumstances or increase using established Pacific visas, earlier than throwing open the floodgates with the brand new anything-goes agriculture visa.”

working in farm in Australiaworking in farm in Australia
Authorities commodity forecaster ABARES says the variety of employees on horticulture farms fell by 8 per cent final 12 months.(Provided)

Minister: Australia wants Ag Visa

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud mentioned the ABARES report “spoke volumes in regards to the resilience and initiative of the horticulture business”, which maintained output regardless of the challenges of COVID-19.

Mr Littleproud mentioned Australia nonetheless wanted a brand new visa to recruit abroad employees for farms.

“In accordance with ABARES, greater than 50 per cent of horticulture farms had difficulties accessing employees over 2020-21. Farmers have been intelligent and resourceful but it surely can’t go on perpetually,” Mr Littleproud mentioned.

“Left unaddressed, we run the danger of shortages of meals merchandise on our cabinets and that may imply value will increase on the checkout”.

A man with dark hair and glasses is wearing a blue collared shirt at a cattle yard.A man with dark hair and glasses is wearing a blue collared shirt at a cattle yard.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says if Australia does not tackle a farm employee scarcity “we run the danger of meals shortages”.(ABC Information: Che Chorley)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison dedicated to ascertain a brand new agriculture visa, in return for the Nationals help for a free commerce settlement with the UK, which eliminated the requirement for British backpackers to work on Australian farms.

Regardless of present bilateral negotiations with 4 nations — Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia – Australia is to this point but to persuade one other nation to enroll to the Agriculture Visa.

Scarcity may have been worse, farmers say

The Nationwide Farmers’ Federation Horticulture council mentioned the ABARES report confirmed a missed alternative for the business to capitalise on optimistic seasonal circumstances.

“Had the business been in a position to supply the workforce it wanted, and even had pre-pandemic employee numbers, it’s probably we might have seen vital progress within the horticulture sector,” a spokesperson mentioned.

“Sadly as a result of we weren’t in a position to entry the workforce the business wanted to capitalise on the excessive yields, it resulted in lots of crops not being picked.”

The Horticulture Council mentioned final 12 months’s modelling prompt business might be quick as much as 26,000 employees was based mostly on the worst case situation, however the authorities had restarted the Seasonal Employee Program (SWP), which introduced greater than 11,000 employees from the Pacific into Australia through the pandemic.

“ABARES indicated the sector was quick about 11,000 employees in the long run, and that’s largely because of the restart of the SWP in addition to the assorted incentive based mostly programmes to draw Australians onto farms,” the Horticultural Council mentioned in a assertion.

ABARES mentioned that in 2020-21 the variety of backpackers employed on farms declined by 26 per cent, and the variety of employees employed on employee schemes from the Pacific fell by 9 per cent.

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