NSW Farmers has called for calm amid supply chain concerns saying there is plenty of fresh produce in the field and that the competition watchdog should monitor the situation.
NSW Farmers President James Jackson said there were good production levels of fresh food despite the challenging weather of the past few months and urged shoppers not to panic buy.
“Our growers are sending plenty of produce down to the Sydney Markets, and we’re working on making sure farm businesses can continue to harvest these crops,” Mr Jackson said.
“The big challenge for the agricultural sector now is sick workers and a lack of access to Rapid Antigen Tests, which are combining to create these broader supply chain issues you hear about.”
“Sadly, we’ve seen some companies and individuals use the scarcity of tests and images of empty shelves as an opportunity to lift their prices.
“We would ask the ACCC to keep a close eye on retailers to make sure they don’t bump up prices above any movements in the farm gate price of fresh fruit and vegetables.”
With numerous anecdotal reports of local worker shortages as the Omicron variant sweeps across the nation, Mr Jackson encouraged state and federal governments to urgently look at ways to supply farmers with Rapid Antigen Tests.
“Along with other critical industries, we would hope that farm businesses are included as priority for the distribution of Rapid Antigen Tests. Farmers need to get workers back in the field to harvest and manage livestock.
“We’ve seen some positive announcements, but the fact remains that the fresh food we enjoy is grown on Australian farms, and if our farmers can’t get it out of their fields it won’t make it to supermarket shelves.
“What’s needed most is expedited supply of tests for farmers so they can keep the food flowing to Aussie families.
“We need the agriculture sector – including harvest workers and those in the meat processing sectors, as well as those in transport and handling – to get prioritised access to Rapid Antigen Testing in the latest outbreak, lest we return to the scenes of early 2020 when customers were stockpiling food items.”
Priorities for 2022
NSW Farmers is ushering in the New Year with an advocacy ‘wish list’ that will help hit the goal of $30 billion in farmgate output by 2030.
After closing the book on a record-breaking year for agriculture – despite successive setbacks of flooding, a global pandemic, and a mouse plague – NSW Farmers President James Jackson said the farming sector had an exciting period ahead.
“There are some big challenges ahead that agriculture will have to navigate such as climate targets and a growing global population, so we are adapting to meet those challenges,” Mr Jackson said.
“I think there are five key areas in terms of growth opportunities and areas for reform.”
Foremost among NSW Farmers priorities was stabilising workforce uncertainty created by COVID-19 border restrictions and setting rural and regional communities up for success.
“Our reliance on overseas workers came to a head over the past two years and action must be taken to solve our long-term workforce issues as well as meeting more pressing needs, which require the pre-pandemic movement of people,” Mr Jackson said.
“Infrastructure will play a key role in an economic rebound from COVID-19, but for regional NSW, infrastructure investment must go beyond road, rail, and air access and look at the internet and connectivity requirements of businesses and communities.
“Another key spending area should be in research and development, which can do everything from improving crop yields to finding biosecurity solutions for bugs, pests and even mice.”
Mr Jackson said NSW Farmers would also pay close attention to potential battlegrounds for agriculture, including land use planning and animal welfare.
“With renewable energy set to consume more space in regional areas, farmers need to be ahead of the energy transition and what it means for the division of land,” he said.
“We need to balance the global move to carbon reduction with food security to ensure our finite agricultural resources are protected in the swift transition to renewables, and forward-thinking land use planning will be central to this.
“Animal welfare is a growing philosophical battleground, and NSW Farmers remains committed to pursuing a science-based approach that has data at its core.”
Agriculture and the many sectors linked to it have come on in leaps and bounds over the past 10 years due to technological advances and clever thinking. Read about R&D and the bright future of agriculture here.