Peak bodies representing Australia’s food sector as a whole, including seafood industry body Seafood Industry Australia, have calculated that at least 172,000 workers are needed to keep food production on track.
This is seen as a massive labour shortage that will have significant long-term impacts on price and the availability of food for the consumer unless solutions are found quickly. Peak bodies representing seafood, meat, horticulture and more have called on the federal government to prioritise food sector in upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit.
According to these peak bodies, which have recently collaborated to form the Food Supply Chain Alliance, this is one of the few ‘cost of living’ pressures the Government can influence. The Alliance believes the food sector, given it provides an essential service to the community, must be a priority at the upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit, which must deliver viable solutions to be considered a success.
‘The Australian seafood industry continues to face labour shortages across the wild-catch, aquaculture, and processing sectors,’ said Seafood Industry Australia CEO Veronica Papacosta.
‘The current labour shortage is impacting 48% of our businesses – meaning boats are tied up at docks
because we cannot achieve minimum crewing levels, seafood processors and retailers cannot find
staff to operate their businesses, and the impacts in our aquaculture facilities will be felt for years to
come. Like all proteins and produce, a reduced supply of seafood into stores puts pressure on the
cost of the family meal. This is something we never want to see.’
Represents more than 160,000 businesses with a revenue of over $200 billion, the Food Supply Chain Alliance brings together farmers, meat producers, the seafood sector, distribution, catering and hospitality businesses.
The Alliance says there are steps the Australian government can take now to relieve the pressure on food industries and consumers.
They claim the food supply chain urgently requires a suite of tools, including suitable visa pathways to welcome overseas workers, as well as measures to facilitate people in the country to take up the work – such as lifting restrictions on work rights for temporary migrants and seniors, and support to enable relocation to do the work.
The Alliance believes the government must, as a matter of urgency, develop a National Food Supply Chain Strategy to reduce the impact of both natural disasters and future global challenges.