Agriculture is the backbone of the Queensland economy and the lifeblood of regional communities. The growing world population is increasing the global demand for food and according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, the world must increase agricultural output by 70% over the next 20 years to meet this demand.
This demand presents new opportunities for Queensland agriculture to expand to feed a growing and more urbanised global population. However, farmers are feeling the pinch and the compounding impact of numerous factors including escalating input costs and workforce shortages are currently having a real effect on farm.
Securing a skilled workforce has always been a challenge for our sector, and over the years Queensland farmers have innovated and come up with different ways to attract and retain staff to the regions to work in their farming enterprises. In the last year or two, these workforce challenges however, have become a crisis.
We are all aware of the many factors that have contributed to the current situation ranging from the effects of closed borders during the COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions to holiday workers and immigration strategies, gaps in our current training pathways and more recently the housing shortage.
QFF has been collaborating with government and industry to look for solutions to help industry get through the short-term crisis and longer term, to put plans in place that will build a secure workforce for the future.
Through the Rural Jobs Skills Alliance (RJSA), QFF has worked with representatives from across Queensland agriculture and the state government to develop the Queensland Agriculture Industry Workforce Plan 2022-2027. This is an important collaborative group and together RJSA is hosting the Queensland Agworkforce virtual Summit on 3rd to 5th August to bring industry and government together to further discuss some of the key issues and work together to develop strategies and solutions to achieve a sustainable workforce for Queensland agriculture.
Jobs Queensland’s Anticipating Future Skills are suggesting an additional 8,788 people will be needed to support agriculture, forestry and fishing in Queensland by 2025. That sounds like good news, but for farmers who are already behind the eight ball and struggling to find enough staff to operate their farming enterprises today, this is a daunting figure. There are farmers who are not planting labour intensive crops this season because they are concerned they will not be able to find enough staff come harvest time. This is not a good situation for the sector or for the future of food production for Queensland.
The future sustainability and growth of Queensland agriculture is dependent on being able to attract and retain a skilled workforce. The current workforce shortage is having a daily impact on farmers across Queensland and if not addressed, will continue to drive agricultural output and productivity down.
If you have not yet booked to participate in the Queensland Agworkforce Summit, please do so at www.qldagworkforce.org.au. We need to work together on this and your involvement and contribution to finding solutions is vital.