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Farm labour shortage risks food price spike as Aussies shun harvest jobs

Food prices will rise for consumers and profits will fall for farmers unless an urgent fix is found for the coronavirus-driven worker shortage, the farm lobby says, as it warns union demands to source local labour will lead to food rotting in the field.

Tyson Cattle, spokesman for the fruit and vegetable industry lobby group AusVeg, said the horticulture’s industry reliance on migrant labour was not a preference, but because “Australians had proven that they do not want to work in the sector”.

AusVeg chairman and leafy green grower Bill Bulmer said paying higher wages would drive up the cost of food but not solve the labour shortage.

AusVeg chairman and leafy green grower Bill Bulmer said paying higher wages would drive up the cost of food but not solve the labour shortage.

“The claims from the unions today are absurd,” Mr Cattle said. “Growers would love to employ locals, and all farms do, but they simply can’t secure the numbers of workers they need, at many different skill levels, without access to international workers, including backpackers.”

Australian Workers Union national secretary Daniel Walton, whose union is part of a coalition calling for an end to foreign backpacker labour in favour of local workers or immigrants from the Pacific, said he did not believe farmers’ claims they could not find enough fruit pickers here.

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