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Workforce disruptions and agriculture

By Dr Vivekananda Mittahalli, Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Agribusiness)
27 January 2022

Agriculture, horticulture, and allied enterprises not only require sufficient workforce but have a timely need to act on critical operations to avoid losses.

In recent times, La Nina and COVID-19 have had completely different impacts in the regional agricultural sector.

The La Nina brought more rains and favourable weather conditions for most crops (flooding and storm damage aside) whereas COVID-19 impacted workforce shortages through restrictions and other factors.  

There are news articles reporting increased workforce demand in regional areas, particularly as the pandemic both reduces international travel, and between states. One example that demonstrates the impact of both of these barriers comes from the wool industry. When international borders closed, it became difficult for skilled New Zealand shearers to make the trip across the Tasman to work in Australia. And it was also difficult for those already in the country to move between states as needed. 

Added to this, has been the impact of the La Nina. It was noticed that fruit bearing increased in some horticulture crops (eg avocado, mango, apples, bananas, blueberries, etc), but many growers found themselves in the situation of leaving part of the crop unharvested because of workforce shortages. 

This increasing demand for a workforce in the regional farm business is something the Hub is studying. We are investigating the current workforce situation, challenges, strategies, and its impact on the various activities (land preparation, planting, spraying, post-harvest, infrastructure maintenance etc) at the farm and farm business enterprises in the hub regional areas. 

There is no easy answer to the ongoing workforce issues in rural and regional areas, but it’s hoped we can develop new information to aid seasonal planning, risk management, etc that will help regional businesses, both at time of peak demand and throughout the year. 

If you have information to share or would like to participate, please contact Vivek on

The Hub received funding from the Australian Government’s Future Drought Fund.