Fruit and veg prices about to soar
The cost of fruit and vegetables will soar by up to 60 per cent as backpacker worker shortfalls of 70,000 are expected to bite from later this year.
It will see grocery bills increasing, while more people are doing it tough and looking for work or working less hours.
While the numbers of working holiday visa workers have already halved, as backpackers return home and COVID restrictions prevent new arrivals, it is expected to continue to drop into next year.
Horticulture industry experts say Aussies could have to fork out up to 60 per cent more for fresh produce, as shortages force shops to rely on imports, unless the problem is solved.
The government is trialling bringing in Pacific region workers, with a pilot program of 170 Vanuatuans in Darwin already begun.
Australians have typically shunned the fruitpicking roles, with the job requiring workers to relocate for six-to-eight weeks labour before moving to the next job.
Australian Fresh Produce Alliance boss Michael Rogers said it was difficult to say when the price rises would hit, but modelling they commission showed it could see the cost per kilogram up 60 per cent.
"There's implications here for every Australian," he said.
Growcom acting CEO Richard Shannon said the national workforce shortage of 71,000 workers included 22,000 in Queensland.
"It will clearly have an impact on prices down the supply chain," he said.
Solutions proposed by the industry groups include a $1200 relocation payments for unemployed Australians to take the work, expanding the Pacific worker trial and further incentives to keep the current working holiday maker visa holders here.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said he was open to opening the NT trial.
"No-one wants to see fruit and vegetables wasted and that is why we are looking at how we can continue to support the agriculture sector access the workers they needed," he said.
"This continues to be a serious issue that will have a huge impact on our farm sector so we are looking at all of our options including possible incentives as well as mutual obligation requirements."
Gold Coast parents Matt and Amanda Goss and their 17-month-old son Morrison follow a plant-based diet and would be dismayed if the price of fruits and veggies soared.
"They are the staples of your diet, you build everything around it," Mr Goss, 39, said.
"When you compare the price of fresh food to what fast people can do food for, it could lead people down the path of being more unhealthy … money talks."
Originally published as Fruit and veg prices about to soar