‘Tragic’: Fruit and veg price to skyrocket
Shoppers could be paying up to 25 per cent more for some fruits and vegetables this summer as farmers struggle to get enough workers to harvest the crops.
Farmers have been battling to find seasonal fruit and veg pickers as COVID restrictions have dwindled the number of backpacker workers.
As farmers watch their fruit rot on trees, they're bearing the brunt of the extra costs that will inevitably be passed down to consumers.
"We've exhausted virtually all of the domestic workforce that actually want to work on a farm and now we're desperately trying to get people in from overseas," NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said.
Prices of seasonal fruit and vegetables including grapes and stone fruits like cherries and plums are set to spike over summer.
The reality is that farmers have plenty of work available but don't have enough people to pick this season's crop, with the NSW industry alone falling short of around 90,000 workers.
Nationwide, there's a shortage of about 26,000 farm workers, according to a recent report from consultancy firm EY.
"It's tragic to see crops wilting on the vines or rotting on trees," CEO of NSW Farmers, Pete Arkle, said.
Fruit farmer Guy Geata, who grows cherries near Orange in NSW, saw inquiries for farm work dry up during the pandemic, despite cherry pickers being able to earn around $400 a day.
"We need about 70 people in December, and I don't know what we're going to do," he had previously said.
He warned that if growers can't find workers, Christmas fruit will be more expensive.
"It's going to be left on the tree, they won't taste as good, and the price is going to go up," Mr Geata said.
Originally published as 'Tragic': Fruit and veg price to skyrocket