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20 Jan 2012

Labour shortage costing farmers $150m a year

Source : The Age - Australia

ACUTE labour shortages are costing Australia's farmers more than $150 million a year in lost productivity, with rural food producers struggling to find specialist trades workers, food technicians and agronomists, a Senate inquiry has heard. 

One of Australia's biggest farm industry groups,Ag Force Queensland, estimates agriculture currently faces a national labour shortage of at least 96,000 full-time skilled workers and 10,000 casual workers. 

More than 1200 skilled jobs were lost from Australia's rice industry during the recent drought, with rural service industries now struggling to recruit food technicians, specialist grain millers and laboratory workers, a Senate education committee inquiry has heard. 

In its submission to the committee, Ag Force Queensland has warned of ''a market failure in producing sufficient skilled workers to meet the needs of Australian agriculture''. 

A farm machinery organisation has told the inquiry there is a ''desperate shortage of agricultural engineers throughout Australia'', pointing to a failure to include farm machinery skills in many tertiary agriculture courses. Western Australia Regional Manufacturers president Alan Fisher said a student graduating with an agribusiness or agriculture science degree ''now has no formal education in an important area which can make or break a farm business''. 

The National Farmers Federation has called for greater involvement from the Gillard government in regional development.

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