A group of Federal Queensland MPs have expressed their concerns about a workforce shortage in the agriculture industry which could have a devastating impact on the sector.
Farmers and producers across the state rely on large numbers of overseas workers to help them harvest their crops and with working holiday maker numbers in Australia already significantly reduced due to the coronavirus pandemic, alternative ways to secure a workforce are needed.
Keith Pitt, Ken O’Dowd, Michelle Landry, George Christensen and Warren Entsch have written to Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner to ask the Queensland Government to work collaboratively with the Federal Government on finding solutions to the issue.
Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said this was an opportunity for the Federal Government and Queensland State Government to work together on a common goal.
“With an estimated gross value of farm production in 2019–20 of $60 billion, the agriculture industry is vital to Australia. None of us want to see the industry suffer from a workforce shortage and have crops rot on the ground and on the trees,” Mr Pitt said.
“I have had local farmers tell me that they will have to start making decisions about future crops and without a secure workforce, these will be tough decisions.
“In the current environment, every job is a good job and people need to take the work that is offered. There are career opportunities working in agriculture, not just picking, its forklift driving, machinery operation, maintenance, administration, sales and the list goes on,” Mr Pitt said.
Federal Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd said numerous farmers and producers in his electorate are very concerned for the future getting the crops to market.
“As we are in unchartered waters it is important to work with all levels of Government to assist our farmers in getting the best outcome and allowing them to get the fruit off the trees and produce to our tables,” Mr O’Dowd said.
“For the foreseeable future agriculture will depend on a combined local and foreign workforce. With appropriate quarantine arrangements in place, seasonal and Pacific workers can continue to safely support Australian farmers facing critical workforce shortages. We are fortunate that some of these workers have chosen to stay in our country.”
Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry said the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected all sectors in the Queensland economy.
“Unfortunately, the agricultural sector has not been immune to coronavirus. Our growers and farmers need the certainty of knowing that all of the governments who are elected to represent them, are all on the same page and are all committed to addressing this issue,” Ms Landry said.
Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen said the priority was providing primary producers with the support they need.
“I have the largest winter vegetable-growing region in my electorate and I know these people want to see their prime produce make it to market.”