18 April, 2016

Addressing labour supply issues in the vegetable industry

In an effort to bolster the long-term growth of the nation’s $3.3 billion vegetable industry, Horticulture Innovation Australia has commissioned a research project that aims to address labour supply challenges faced by growers.

To be led by labour expert Dr Joanna Howe in the University of Adelaide’s Law School, the project will evaluate the labour needs of the vegetable industry, review the existing framework regarding the role of temporary migrants in the industry and propose innovative solutions for addressing vegetable industry worker shortages.

Horticulture Innovation Australia Chief Executive Officer John Lloyd said the vegetable industry is critical to Australia’s economic development and food security into the future, and therefore solutions to labour issues must be found.

“The almost 5000 vegetable operations across Australia produce $3.3 billion of nation’s Gross Domestic Product making them a vital contributor of the nation’s economy,” he said.

Mr Lloyd said while robotic equipment, such as the Ladybird, is being developed to help vegetable growers find efficiencies, researchers are still a while away from releasing technology that will harvest vegetables.

“While there has been a lot of discussion of late about labour shortages within the farming industries, little has been done to research the true extent of the problem including genuine labour supply solutions for the vegetable industry,” he said.

“Through this project, which is expected to be complete in December, we expect to uncover tangible solutions to labour shortages – whether those be training initiatives, policy recommendations, new technologies or all of the above.”

Mr Lloyd said one of the first actions in the project is to conduct a national survey of vegetable growers throughout May to help establish an evidence base for reform.

He said the project, which is funded through the vegetable levy and the Australian Government, is just one aspect of Horticulture Innovation Australia’s efforts to build a globally competitive, innovative, resilient and profitable vegetable industry.

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