Australia’s food supply chain still in crisis after jobs summit

The Food Supply Chain Alliance says the issues facing the food sector did not receive priority or recognition from the government at the Jobs and Skills Summit last week. The likely outcome will be the negative impact it will have on Australia’s domestic food security.

The Alliance, which is made up of Australia’s leading food industry bodies, including the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), says the lack of immediate solutions will lead to higher food prices for consumers and a reduction in food availability.

Ahead of the summit, the Alliance calculated that the food supply chain needed 172,000 skilled and unskilled workers, from paddock to fork, to continue to efficiently deliver food to the Australian community.

Pickers are needed to harvest horticultural crops, packers in warehouses and truck drivers for food distribution, workers in processing plants, fishers for crew boats, staff to work in independent supermarkets and convenience stores and, above all, more than 100,000 employees to support the hospitality industry.

The Alliance said early on that this area was one of the few “cost of living” pressures the government could influence. The Alliance believes that the food sector, given that it provides an essential service to the community, should have been prioritized at the Summit with concrete solutions found to be considered a success.

“While there were some positive announcements, overall they missed the mark and failed to bring immediate relief to the sector,” the Alliance says.

“The increase in the permanent migration cap from 160,000 to 195,000 is a positive step, but this increase of 35,000 does not solve the immediate shortage of 172,000 workers needed in the food supply chain.

“With over 900,000 unprocessed visas to be processed by the government, hiring a peak workforce of 500 people will still take over nine months to reduce the backlog, it’s just too long . Businesses in the food supply chain need help now to harvest, package, ship and distribute food to Australian consumers.

“The need for a national food supply chain strategy coupled with a regional housing strategy was not addressed by the summit. Given the severity of the challenges facing the sector, the lack of announcements shows that the summit did not take the engine room needs of the economy seriously.

“Getting retirees and other welfare recipients into the workplace is important, as is simplifying current obligations for temporary visa holders and reducing barriers to employment such as payroll taxes. “

The Food Supply Chain Alliance represents over 160,000 companies with over $200 billion in sales. 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 AACS.

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