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Australia: National Farmers Federation says govt labour survey is ‘unhelpful’

Last week, the Federal Government  released The Demand for Farm Workers Farm Survey 2018 from the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Science (ABARES). One of its main conclusions was that out of the 2,400 farms surveyed across broadacre, dairy, horticulture and some irrigation industries, vacancies were generally filled and recruitment difficulties were similar or less common than other businesses in the economy.

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) called these government findings, essentially claiming that agriculture faced no significant difficulty sourcing labour, ‘unhelpful’. The NFF says these conclusions are at odds with the peak body’s own data.

Specifically the report found “Few horticulture farms had difficulty recruiting, but a higher proportion of dairy and broadacre farms had difficulties. For horticulture farmers in particular, the low skilled nature of the work, the use of contract labour and access to backpackers appears to reduce recruitment difficulties faced.”

“Strangely, this is almost the exact opposite of what NFF members report the situation to be,” NFF CEO Tony Mahar said in a press release. “We are concerned that the findings are unhelpful in providing up-to-date data and positive steps that can be taken to deliver policies and initiatives to widen the farm workforce pool.”

The NFF’s own labour survey found 43% of farmers experienced labour shortages during peak season, 23 per cent said they had a constant labour shortage, and only 21 per cent said they never experienced shortages.

“Despite the findings by ABARES, we remain firmly of the view that there is a problem,” said Tony.


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