• Crop growing groups say losses resulting from labour shortages due to the international travel bans have now topped $38 million.
  • CANBERRA, AAP – Fruit and vegetable crop losses across the country as a result of labour shortages continued to mount over the festive season and now top $38 million.

    A national lost crop register was launched in mid-December to capture the cost to industry and the economy from a lack of seasonal workers available to harvest fresh fruits and vegetables due to international travel bans.

    In a joint statement, the National Farmers Federation, the Horticulture Council and industry body Growcom said 55 growers from five states and territories had losses to date.

    The losses included berries, tomatoes, carrots, citrus, bananas, pumpkins, chilli and leafy green vegetables.

    “Our belief is that reports to the register so far are just the tip of the iceberg,” Growcom manager for policy and advocacy Richard Shannon said.

    “As awareness of the register grows and as labour supply remains tight, the recorded losses will likely only increase.”

    The horticulture industry has been warning of labour shortages since March last year as a result of international travel bans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    While Mr Shannon welcomed the incentives offered by governments so far to encourage Australians to take up harvest roles, he said it was clear more needed to be done.

    “Without urgent action our labour supply situation will only continue to deteriorate and growers will keep losing crops until international travel reaches the same scale it was before the pandemic, expected to be more than two years away,” he said.

    The industry has been calling for an expansion of the trans-Tasman bubble to include COVID-free Pacific Island nations as a way for workers to enter Australia, outside of the current quarantine pathways and the international returned travellers cap.