Kimberley banana farmers hit hard by worker shortage

The current severe labor shortage has now led Western Australia's largest banana grower to the difficult decision of knocking down hundreds of banana trees in the East Kimberley. Ord Valley farmer Lachlan Dobson, whose family own one of the only banana plantations left in Kununurra said that, despite their best efforts to attract local workers, the lack of backpackers and high costs of the Seasonal Worker Program, made it impossible to keep up with their picking schedule.

According to Dobson’s estimates, they had lost around 13,500 boxes of bananas in the demolition and as much as $1.4 million in lost revenue for the year.

"But this is only the first block, there'll be more that we have to knock out…so we're looking at probably 30% of our total area," Dobson told abc.net.au. It's a big loss for the Dobson family's crop but it's not unique: every week the horticultural industry sees the ill effects of a dried-up workforce. The National Lost Crop Register topped $45 million earlier this year, as a result of labor shortages during the pandemic.

And sadly for the Dobson family, the hit came off the back of two difficult wet seasons, right after the family had invested millions on expanding the farm. This has left their business, Kimberley Produce, fighting for survival.


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