Labour shortage: Australia’s food industry fa...
Labour shortage

Australia’s food industry faces unprecedented labour crisis

Imago / AAP
“The ability to transport food is becoming harder by the day due to the significant shortages of truck drivers across the country. Coupled with that is an ongoing lack of skilled and unskilled workers in food warehouses to help pack and store food products and drive forklifts to unload trucks from suppliers and load them for food retail outlets. Recruiting and maintaining staff is almost impossible,” said CEO of Independent Food Distributors Australia, Richard Forbes.
“The ability to transport food is becoming harder by the day due to the significant shortages of truck drivers across the country. Coupled with that is an ongoing lack of skilled and unskilled workers in food warehouses to help pack and store food products and drive forklifts to unload trucks from suppliers and load them for food retail outlets. Recruiting and maintaining staff is almost impossible,” said CEO of Independent Food Distributors Australia, Richard Forbes.

AUSTRALIA, Canberra. Ahead of Australia’s Jobs and Skills Summit at the beginning of September, the country’s top peak food industry bodies called for the federal government to prioritise the food sector. The ongoing labour shortage will lead to prolonged higher food prices for consumers, and reduced food availability will continue throughout 2022 and beyond, Australia’s food industry warned.

According to a press release by the National Farmers Federation, food industry bodies have calculated the food supply chain to be short at least 172,000 workers from paddock to plate.


This massive labour shortage will have significant long-term impacts on price and the availability of food for the consumer unless solutions are found quickly, the association warned.

Several industry bodies recently collaborated to form the Food Supply Chain Alliance, representing over 160,000 businesses with a revenue of over AUS$200 billion.

The Alliance says there are steps the government can take now to relieve the pressure on food industries and consumers. The food supply chain urgently requires a suite of tools, including suitable visa pathways to welcome overseas workers, as well as measures to facilitate people in the country to take up work (i.e. lifting restrictions on work rights for temporary migrants and seniors and support to enable relocation to do the work).

“The post-farmgate meat supply chain is already under-resourced to process the number of livestock forecast to be produced in Australia in 2022. Forecasts for 2023-2025 can be anything between a 15-35% increase in livestock numbers. This will obviously be catastrophic for Australian farmers if the volume of livestock is far greater than the meat processing industry can process, and the wider supply chain has the ability to manage,” said CEO of the Australian Meat Industry Council, Patrick Hutchinson.

“Independent Food and Grocery supermarkets have never before experienced worker shortages as we have seen in the past 12 months. The situation is diabolical as members struggle with increased costs of doing business coupled with insufficient staff to help run their stores. Our industry sector has traditionally relied upon local workers in the first instance and then new migrant workers, temporary visa holders and backpackers to work in their stores. MGA strongly encourages the Government to allow older workers currently not wishing to risk their pension payments to work in our members’ stores, as well as simplifying Temporary Visa conditions to allow temporary visa holders to work longer hours, extend their visas and apply for permanent residency,” said CEO of Master Grocers Australia, Jos De Bruin.

The Food Supply Chain Alliance includes the National Farmers Federation, the Australian Meat Industry Council, Seafood Industry Australia, Independent Food Distributors Australia, AUSVEG, Master Grocers Australia, Restaurant and Catering Industry Association and the Australian Association of Convenience Stores.

Source: National Farmers Federation

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