Leading Australian food industry bodies have calculated that the food supply chain is currently short of at least 172,000 workers from paddock to plate.
This massive labor shortage will have significant long-term impacts on food prices and availability to the consumer unless solutions are found quickly, the group said.
According to the leading bodies, which recently collaborated to form the Food Supply Chain Alliance, this is one of the few “cost of living” pressures that the government can influence.
The Alliance believes that the food sector, given that it provides an essential service to the community, must be a priority at the upcoming Federal Government Jobs and Skills Summit, which must provide viable solutions to be considered. as a success.
The “Food Supply Chain Alliance” represents 160,000 companies with a turnover of more than 200 billion dollars. It includes the National Farmers Federation, Australian Meat Industry Council, Seafood Industry Australia, Independent Food Distributors Australia, AUSVEG, Master Grocers Australia, Restaurant and Catering Industry Association and the Australian Association of Convenience Stores.
In a joint statement, the Alliance said the government could take action now to ease the pressure on food industries and consumers.
The food supply chain urgently requires a series of tools, including proper visa pathways to welcome foreign workers, as well as measures to help people in the country take the job (i.e. i.e. lifting restrictions on labor rights for temporary migrants and older people, and support to enable relocation to get the job done).
Food Supply Chain Strategy
The Alliance believes that the government must urgently develop a national food supply chain strategy to reduce the impact of natural disasters and future global challenges.
Director General of the National Federation of Farmers Tony Mahar said the labor crisis in agriculture is not only hurting farmers but also the economy, and is hitting consumers in the hip pocket.
“Farmers make the difficult choice not to plant certain crops because they cannot guarantee they will have workers to harvest. If crops aren’t planted, less food is grown and people pay more. It’s a simple equation. We need proper visa solutions to attract workers and ensure they are treated fairly,” he said.
Chief Executive of the Australian Meat Industry Council Patrick Hutchinson said the after-farm meat supply chain was already under-resourced to handle the number of head of cattle expected to be produced in Australia in 2022.
“The forecast for 2023-2025 can be anything between a 15% to 35% increase in livestock numbers. It will obviously be catastrophic for Australian farmers if the volume of cattle is far beyond what the meat processing industry can handle, and if the wider supply chain has the capacity to handle,” a- he declared.
See this previous report on labor challenges facing meat processors.
CEO of Independent Food Distributors Australia, Richard Forbes said the ability to transport food was becoming more difficult day by day due to the severe shortage of truck drivers across the country.
“Added to this is a continued shortage of skilled and unskilled workers in food warehouses to help pack and store food products and drive forklifts to unload vendor trucks and load them for retail outlets. . Recruiting and retaining staff is next to impossible,” he said.
Managing Director of Master Grocers Australia Jos De Bruin said independent food and grocery supermarkets had never experienced labor shortages like those seen in the past 12 months.
“The situation is diabolical as members grapple with increased costs of doing business and insufficient staff to help run their stores.
“Our industry sector has traditionally relied on local workers first, then new migrant workers, temporary visa holders and backpackers to work in their stores. MGA strongly encourages the government to allow older workers who currently do not wish to risk their pension payments to work in our member stores as well as to simplify temporary visa requirements to allow temporary visa holders to work longer, extend their visa and apply for permanent residency. ”
CEO of the Restaurant and Catering Industry Association, Belinda Clark said the hospitality industry was a $57 billion market in Australia.
“Restaurants, cafes and caterers are currently facing a shortage of 100,000 jobs across the country. The grief of having to close their doors due to COVID, losing their staff, or even closing the business for good has taken its toll on everyone.
“And we are still not off the hook. Input costs have risen dramatically across the board, this perfect storm will mean prices will have to rise just for businesses to make ends meet and customers will start to see their favorite items on the menu start to disappear. Times have never been tougher and the public and the industry must come together to get through this. We desperately need a solution.