Thousands of unfilled jobs in the state’s vegetable and wine industries are forcing businesses to retract growth plans, with AusVeg SA chief Jordan Brooke-Barnett estimating that 20 percent of jobs in the state’s $1.9 billion horticulture industry are vacant.
Chief executive of the peak industry body Brooke-Barnett said it was the most challenging jobs market in a decade for the state’s horticulture industry that employs about 20,000 South Australians, adding that businesses “are just making their shifts.”
“It’s a real challenge for the industry, and we can’t invest or grow when all of our businesses are focused on just getting the product out there,” he said. “I would estimate, back of the envelope in talking to growers, we’ve got about 20 percent fewer workers than we need, that means you are really pushing the workforce har, you can’t focus on growth.”
He warned the problem could drive up the cost of fruit and vegetables, and he called for a longer-term effort to attract more ag graduates, along with an assessment of work visa regulations and skilled migration. A perfect storm of COVID-related staffing issues, backpackers not being in South Australia for unskilled work, rising wages as businesses vie for workers, and a lack of graduates choosing horticulture degrees, have created extensive challenges.
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