A new report by ABARES predicts consumers will be paying for the shortfall of harvest workers this season, with prices for fruit and vegetables expected to spike.

Key points:

  • ABARES report finds veg and fruit production could fall by two and 17 per cent respectively, with farm labour shortages
  • The report says the resulting higher prices will be felt until the 2021-2022 harvest season
  • Consumers are expected to stick to current buying patterns, despite the price rise

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) predicts the shortage of overseas harvest workers will result in a drop in fruit production by as much as 17 per cent and vegetable production is tipped to drop by about 2 per cent.

And that was not good news for consumers — with prices set to rise by between seven and 29 per cent.

The ABARES report said a large fall in the supply of overseas workers was expected to reduce the supply of horticultural produce until the 2021–2022 peak harvest season, with “no additional backpackers expected”.

Consumers will pay

ABARES said while the industry was set to see a dip in supply due to the worker shortage, it was not expecting the consumer to avoid paying higher amounts for produce.

“These characteristics of demand for fresh produce in Australia often mean variations in local supply lead to large short term swings in prices.

“Broccoli provides a good example of this phenomenon. Its price regularly cycles between about $4/kilogram and about $7/kg in southern states, depending on crop cycles and the source location.”

National Farmers Federation Horticulture Council executive officer Tyson Cattle said industry has not been able to crack the domestic worker market despite cash incentives from government.

Under a Federal Relocation Assistance package, $6,000 is available to Australians to move to regional areas to take up work.

In addition, $2,500 is available as cash incentives from the Victorian Government to encourage job seekers to take up seasonal work.

“We think that the incentives are fairly generous, there’s plenty of money available, but it’s always been a really hard one for industry to crack in the domestic audience,” Mr Cattle said.

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Consumers can’t avoid it: We will pay up to a third more for fruit and veg as labour shortage continues
Source:
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