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Horticultural harvest labour

"Outside of the nationals nobody has a plan"

Australia’s stonefruit growers have lost up to $70 million as a result of not having enough workers to pick, process and pack the fruit, according to the national stonefruit body.

Chair of Summerfruit Australia Ltd, Andrew Finlay, said state and federal government programs intended to overcome the 2021-22 harvest labour shortage did not go far enough and achieved very little.

“Over the 2021-22 stone fruit season, the unharvested fruit, over-ripe fruit lost in the packing process and lost export markets, all due to insufficient labour represented an up to $70 million loss to growers and the economy of the production regions,” said Mr Finlay.

Chair of the Summerfruit Export Alliance, Ian McAlister, said the Agriculture Visa, introduced by the National Party, was the only federal parliament move that did have a positive impact. 

“The Australian Summerfruit industry congratulates and thanks Minister Littleproud and his National Party colleagues for driving the Agriculture Visa labour program, for skilled employees,” said Mr McAlister.

These new workers available through the Agriculture Visa will be working alongside the tens of thousands of Australians already employed in our horticulture industries.

If more is not done urgently to address the immediate labour shortage the Australian stonefruit, along with other horticultural industries, will continue to go backwards. The goal for Australian agriculture to reach $100 billion by 2030 will fall well and truly short. 

“With the federal election campaign well underway, Summerfruit Australia Ltd is calling on all nominated candidates and all political parties to detail their immediate plans to deal with the current and future lack of horticulture harvest labour,” said Mr Finlay.

“We call on all parties to show real initiatives by, in the first instance, supporting and expanding the Agriculture Visa and developing other short to medium term programs. While skills training for all ages is important, it will take time to build up the numbers of employees required and while we applaud the planned programs, they will not solve the harvest labour shortage that Australian stonefruit growers are facing for the coming season, in only six months’ time,” said Mr McAlister.

It is time for all politicians and political parties to stand up and solve the current harvest labour problems, and save our much-loved stonefruit industry.

For more information:
Mr Andrew Finlay
Summerfruit Australia Ltd
Tel: +61 407 377 219

Mr Ian McAlister
Summerfruit Export Development Alliance
Tel: +61 427 641 323

Trevor Ranford
Summerfruit Australia Ltd.
Tel: +61 417 809 172

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