Queensland farms stop planting crops as they grapple with worker shortage
The price of our fruit and vegetables could soar, if seasonal worker shortages continue at farms across Queensland.
Growers have been force to leave crops to die as backpackers remain locked out of the country due the coronavirus pandemic.
Crop losses have climbed to tens of millions in Australia.
Opposition Agriculture Minister and Gympie MP Tony Perrett has been travelling from farm to farm in Queensland, meeting with growers to hear about their struggles first hand.
Mr Perrett says growers are extremely concerned.
"They are now making decisions not plant crops based on the fact they won't have anyone to pick them when they're ready to go to market.
"That is concerning, to the community more broadly, because those if those crops are grown or picked, then they don't go to our supermarkets.
He warns it will lead to prices ballooning and supermarkets importing produce from overseas, which "must not happen".
Despite government incentives to entice Australians to take up work on a farm, Mr Perrett says it is quite clear Australians "don't want these jobs".
He points out the Federal Government's Pacific Island farm worker program is working very well, but he is calling on all levels of government to work with the industry to make sure the workers arrive in time.
"That is the critical issue at the moment."
Without people to pick produce for the supermarkets, farmers are under increasing financial pressures which is no doubt taking a toll on their mental health.
"A lot of these farmers do have permanent employees...and if they make the decision not to plant, the permanent jobs are at risk as well.
"It's then the flow on effect in these regional communities because if the workers aren't there and they lose their jobs, then they aren't spending in the local economies."