According to new research highlighting the effect of coronavirus border closures on farm labour, Australia’s fruit and vegetable farmers need an additional 26,000 labor to harvest their crops this summer.
The study by consulting firm Ernst & Young (EY) is the first to measure the worker gap in the agricultural sector, which is traditionally dependent on overseas jobs, after Australia closed its borders in March.
It was commissioned by the Hort Innovation industry association, and farm groups say it shows the need for policymakers to intervene to ensure that produce is not lost and that the supply of food is not interrupted.
In March next year, the demand for seasonal workers to harvest and pack produce will peak.
AusVeg spokesman Tyson Cattle hoped governments would see the report as “a lightbulb moment”.
“They’ve been calling for data and evidence on understanding the shortage, and 26,000 workers is not a small amount,” Mr Cattle said.
“We’re just looking at any option and happy to work with Government for any option to get people on-farm, because at the moment its desperate times for a lot of growers and they just need a workforce.”