NFF says national workforce survey is not accurate

THE National Farmers' Federation (NFF) disagrees with the findings of a new government report that looks at the agricultural workforce.
NFF says national workforce survey is not accurate  NFF says national workforce survey is not accurate  NFF says national workforce survey is not accurate  NFF says national workforce survey is not accurate  NFF says national workforce survey is not accurate

Labour shortages at key times such as harvest remain an issue for farmers. Picture Mark Saunders.

Staff writer

The NFF is at odds with ‘The Demand for Farm Workers Farm Survey 2018' report, published last week by the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Science (ABARES).

The report notes that farmers in the horticulture sector have almost no difficulty in attracting workers and suggests of the 20,000 advertised positions, the ABARES survey found only 700, or 3.5 per cent went unfilled.

The report also states, by industry, 14 per cent of vegetable growers and 18 per cent of fruit and nut growers said they have difficulty recruiting workers and broadacre and dairy were found to have the most pronounced workforce challenges.

The NFF says the survey findings don't match farmers' actual experience and fail to provide appropriate or current evidence that will help fix the problem of labour shortages.

"Strangely, this is almost the exact opposite of what NFF members report the situation to be," NFF chief executive officer Tony Mahar said.

"We have strong reservations about the report as we know the farm labour shortage is most severe in horticulture and while it is still a serious problem, it is less so in the dairy and broadacre sectors. The survey doesn't align with what farmers are saying, did not cover many of the main fruit growing regions and instead focussed on fruit growing in the Murray Darling Basin," Mahar said.

"We are concerned that the findings are unhelpful in providing up-to-date data and positive steps that can be taken to deliver policies and initiatives to widen the farm workforce pool.

"Currently agriculture's workforce deficit is one of the largest constraints to our sector's productivity growth and we need solutions for agriculture to reach its potential of being a $100 billion industry by 2030."

The NFF's own labour survey found 43 per cent of farmers experienced labour shortages during peak season, 23 per cent said they had a constant labour shortage, and only 21 per cent said they never experienced shortages.