VEGETABLE growers need to think ahead about their labour needs for spring and summer to tackle what could potentially be a dire shortage of workers.
Ausveg has urged growers across the country to assess their labour needs and forward plan as the number of foreign workers falls due to the restrictions on international and interstate travel.
According to Ausveg, Working Holiday Makers and Seasonal Workers numbers in Australia are down about 35 per cent on where they would normally be and that is expected to continue to decline further as we get closer to Christmas.
Ausveg chief executive officer, James Whiteside, said with the availability of foreign workers significantly reduced for this time of the year, growers need to be as proactive as possible in assessing their labour needs so they can protect themselves as much as possible from worker shortages.
"Unfortunately, with the international border restrictions and with no clear end in sight, it is difficult to for growers and industry to plan for an international workforce," said Mr Whiteside said.
"It is also made more difficult with domestic border closures, which is why it is crucial growers plan and advertise their workforce needs as early as possible.
"Growers will always have a preference to employ local workers, and the reality is that our industry cannot rely on international workers as they have done in the past to supplement the workers they need that cannot be sourced from the local labour pool."
"We cannot predict what the short-medium, and long-term challenges of dealing with COVID-19 are in different states across the country, so it is critical that growers start thinking about their labour requirements for the coming months so that they can investigate mitigation plans in case there are further disruptions to the movement of people across borders and regions."
Ausveg's Mr Whiteside said the reality was the demand for labour was likely to exceed supply in many areas.
"It is likely that those growers who have paid attention to the need for alternative labour sourcing arrangements earlier will see the least disruption to their operations," he said.
Growers are encouraged to lodge their labour needs through the Harvest Trail Service so they can find workers who are willing and able to work on vegetable farms
Ausveg has also encouraged growers to complete the online survey that EY has developed. The survey can be found HERE.
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