Australian farms set to suffer as Covid-19 restrictions lead to shortage in workforce

An apple orchard in Tasmania (Wikimedia Commons)

“Australia needs 26,000 workers to fill in the gap of worker shortage in its farms”, as per a report by Ernst and Young (EY).

The shortage is fuelled by lack of access to overseas seasonal workers as Australia has closed its borders in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus since March, 2020.

The report has listed a number of areas where demand for labour is likely to be high. The areas include Cairns, Wide Bay, South-east South Australia, Shepparton, North-west Victoria, Coffs Harbour and Grafton, The NSW Murray Region.

Farmers of Australia have been urging the government to lift restrictions and introduce agriculture-specific visas for overseas farmworkers as many farmers make tough choices of destroying their crops owing to lack of human resources.

Last month, 163 workers from Vanuatu were permitted to enter the Northern Territory to work under a seasonal worker trial – farm groups have been advocating for more of such programs.

The EY report highlighted similar shortages across other countries too, stating ‘Covid-19 has caused unprecedented disruption to the global labour market’.

France and the UK are expecting similar disruptions in labour markets, as Covid-19 restrictions continue to be in effect.