AUSVEG calls on major parties to review policies with negative impact on horticulture
Australia’s peak industry body for vegetable and potato growers, AUSVEG, is calling on all major parties to remember where their food comes from and better understand the impacts of their policies on Australia’s horticulture growers.
The Australian horticulture industry has an estimated 30,000 growers and employs approximately 130,000 employees to produce the 6.54 million tonnes of fresh produce that feed local and international consumers each year.
Wage increases, reviews of agricultural chemicals and a lack of commitment to an Agriculture Visa all have significant impacts on the future viability of Australian horticulture.
“The future of Australia’s horticulture industry is at stake if some of these policies come into effect and other major issues that affect productivity and competitiveness are not addressed,” AUSVEG National Public Affairs Manager Tyson Cattle said.
“Growers are already dealing with increased costs of production in labour, fertiliser, power and chemicals, all while they aim to produce the best possible product at an affordable price for the consumer.
“The current policies that will increase wages without increasing productivity will severely hurt growers’ ability to remain competitive in a global market, especially when Australians already have the third-highest wages in the world.
“Growers are price takers, meaning they cannot pass on their costs, so any increases in costs can only cut into what is an already extremely tight margin.
“Consumers want cheaper food, but any increases in wages that are not coupled with higher productivity will have flow-on effects that could increase the price of food, with none of that increase going back to the farmer.”
Labor has announced its intention to raise the minimum wage to a ‘living wage’, while also saying that agriculture would continue to capitalise on export income and growing global food demand.
Labor has also announced its intention to raise minimum wages for Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) by 21 per cent, as well as changes to the current visa system, albeit without a definitive commitment for an Agriculture Visa.
“Labor’s claims that raising the TSMIT will help ensure local workers are not missing out on jobs is completely incorrect, as Australians increasingly don’t want to work on farms,” Mr Cattle said.
“As industry has said for a long time, and we will continue to say, industry’s preference is to employ locally.
“Time and time again it has been proven that there are not enough local workers to fill job vacancies on Australian farms. This is why industry has been advocating for an Agriculture Visa.”
Meanwhile, the Coalition’s lack of commitment to an Agriculture Visa, and recent claim to ‘revisit’ the issue, shows a severe lack of progress in its development.
“Industry is united in its support for an Agriculture Visa and delivered plans on how it could and should work to both sides of government,” Mr Cattle said.
“It’s time for all sides to stop paying lip-service to this significant issue and show more detail on a commitment to a solution that the industry so desperately needs to address its labour shortages.”
AUSVEG is also concerned by the Greens latest so-called agriculture policy position to push for the mandatory re-approval and re-registration of all registered pesticides, which clearly shows how out of touch the party is with agriculture.
“The APVMA is a world-leading independent organisation and industry supports APVMA’s thorough process of approving chemical use,” Mr Cattle said.
“Re-approval and re-registration of chemicals is both a waste of time and money for all involved.”
AUSVEG has been advocating its federal election priorities through SPROUT: Growing a better future in the lead-up to May 18, with Understanding our Industry a key component.
“The horticulture industry is working hard to improve and grow but it needs government support – not policies which are going to make it harder to provide fruit and vegetables to Australian and international consumers,” Mr Cattle said.
AUSVEG’s 2019 Federal Election priorities can be viewed at: https://ausveg.com.au/sprout-growing-a-better-future/.
MEDIA CONTACT: Shaun Lindhe, AUSVEG National Manager – Communications
Phone: 03 9882 0277, Mobile: 0405 977 789, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org