By Growcom CEO David Thomson
The work of farmers has been deemed an essential service by the Queensland and Australian Governments and rightly so, allowing the necessary movement of vital inputs to the industry to continue across state borders.
While there is no shortage of fresh produce, it is anticipated the coronavirus contagion may create a serious disruption in the labour available to the horticulture industry over the next six months.
Many businesses could be facing a lack of workers from overseas to pick their produce come harvest time.
For us to be able to plan and put appropriate measures in place it is vital that, as an industry, we gain a clearer understanding of our future labour demand.
The measures governments take must be scaled, responsive and appropriate to labour demands down to a regional level.
We need data and a lot of it if we want to be accurate with our response to the impacts of COVID-19.
We’ve created an online survey open to all horticulture growers in Queensland to better understand their exact labour needs on a month-to month basis up until and including September.
The survey Horticulture Labour Forecast – April to September 2020 has been developed by Growcom and is being distributed in collaboration with other peak industry bodies and the Queensland Department of Agriculture.
We ask Queensland’s horticulture growers to complete this survey straight after they put down the Country Life on the kitchen bench or coffee table.
The survey has received a great response with 150 growers completing it, but we need many more responses to develop an accurate depiction of farmers’ labour needs for the crucial months ahead.
The survey can be found here: https://bit.ly/3bADGGD
This forecast data is critical, not just for managing the movement of workers, but for getting regional health services prepared for increased demand as workers migrate around Queensland during peak harvest times.
As an industry we owe it to our health professionals to give them as much warning as possible about the likely future shape and size of our workforce so they can handle the coronavirus caseload to come.
Right now, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
Which is why we are also encouraging growers to consider their workforce needs now and advertise jobs early. And wherever they can, post their vacancies on the Harvest Trail jobs board at https://jobsearch.gov.au/harvest.