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vegetablesWAPresident’s ReportBY DAN KUZMICICH PRESIDENT VEGETABLESWAIn the growing game we are no strangers to the constant succession of challenges. If it is not pests, it’s disease, if it’s not the weather, it’s the prices. Now, it seems that it is our workforce that is under threat. This subject should be at the forefront of our growers’ minds, as this situation emerges as our number one issue. It looks pretty certain there will be shortages of Working Holiday Makers (WHM) in WA due to border closures. All Hort industries will be in same boat here and potentially will be competing for workers. It would be great to see a collaborative approach in navigating through this issue. With our business, I am now actively utilising Jobs in WA Food and Ag, via the Studium website, which is providing a service to match employers with willing workers. Studium is one of the State Government funded platforms, which has been specially formulated to assist industry at this time. Facebook and Gumtree are the other traditional channels we usually use to find people.
This active form of searching for workers is new for us in Carnarvon, for at this time of year I usually have an abundance of backpackers dropping into the farm searching for work.
Noticeably, these enquiries are few and far between. Hort industries did identify this as an issue earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, but we were fortunate that there were backpackers still in WA — now they have moved on or gone home.
Growers in the south will be harder hit if this issue is not addressed urgently. If you have any concerns about your labour for the coming season,you need to be registering on the online platforms or getting in contact with vegetablesWA Labour Services Liaison Melissa Denning on 0477 477 044, as soon as possible for assistance. You should be well-aware of the situation as vegetablesWA have been very active in highlighting the issue and sending out constant information via newsletters to your email. vegetablesWA have had little feedback from vegetable growers so far; I urge you to prioritise labour as a discussion item in your business and register so we can understand your requirements and push towards getting you solutions.
To the good news (I guess because of the COVID-19 scenario of border control), is that prices of produce have been good, in fact exceptionally good across the board. We can all appreciate this type of news is excellent, as we all need to have a win from time to time. In speaking to a good cross-section of growers from our sector — they are all saying the same thing. That will always give us a pep in our step!
On the local social scene, the Gascoyne Food Festival has begun. The first event was ‘Canapes on the Gascoyne’ on August 7. This was set in the heart of the lush, sub-tropical aspect of Bentwaters Plantation — a beautiful spot.
This was a stand-up cocktail style event, and hosted a swag of local growers and residents, including our Ag Minister Alannah MacTiernan. It was an opportunity to showcase our local produce and enabled growers to network with the Minister in an informal setting. It was another huge success for our region. If you have any concerns about your labour for the coming season, contact Melissa Denning on 0477 477 044.ALL Hort industries will be competing for workers. It would be great to see a collaborative approach in navigating through this issue.