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Major economic loss due to farm worker shortage

By Tracey Holley posted 29-10-2021 14:13


The state’s agricultural worker shortage has wiped hundreds of millions from projected harvest income as farmers desperately plead for access to labour.

NSW Farmers President James Jackson said reports of the state securing more farm workers would be welcomed if they came to fruition, but he warned the time for talk had passed.

“We’re getting into a pretty tough spot with a lot of crops, we need up to 16,000 farm workers and we need them now – not in two- or three-months’ time,” Mr Jackson said.

“NSW Farmers has been warning of labour shortages since the pandemic started and while you’d think our state and federal governments had learned the lesson last year here we are again.

“Provided these reported workers arrive in the right place at the right time there’ll be a lot of relief on farms right across the state, because we’re hearing reports of great crops starting to go to rot.”

The state’s grain harvest was forecast to be worth $6 billion to the state economy, but the horticulture harvest forecast had been revised down from $2.3 billion to between $1.9 and $2 billion due to the worker shortfall.

Before COVID, many family horticulture businesses could put a simple sign on the gate and be flooded by workers wanting to help them pick the crop. Mr Jackson said COVID has changed that, and the state and federal governments needed to urgently support small to medium farming families to get navigate the complex red tape around the Pacific Labour Scheme.

“If our farmers can get on with their harvest, it will pour billions of much-needed dollars into our economy, and start balancing the books after COVID,” Mr Jackson said.

“We welcome the attention on agriculture, but ultimately we need less talk and more action, we need to be able to get the workers to where they’re needed, and as Deputy Premier Paul Toole said we need workers on farm in the next week.

“It is imperative our state and federal governments work together because any more bureaucratic inertia will see fruit and vegies rot, and food prices increase!”

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