Citrus Australia warns of potential labor shortages - FreshFruitPortal.com

Citrus Australia warns of potential labor, farming input shortages this season

The Australian citrus industry body has warned that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic could impact on seasonal labor programs, farming input availability, and getting fruit to key markets.

In a statement, Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock said that the coronavirus "looms as an unknown for the citrus industry".

"Whilst demand appears to remain strong in markets such as China, some impact can be expected on logistics as the backlog of containers is worked through," he said.

"Gaining access to reefers may prove difficult as normal shipping routes are affected."

Current Government modelling indicates the expected peak in infections in Australia will occur in August, he said.

In addition to an increase in potential illnesses, airlines have reported a significant reduction in flight bookings and as outbreaks occur across the globe, a common response by governments has been to ban travel to and from countries affected.

"In effect this could impact the number of backpackers intending to travel and could impact those involved in seasonal labour schemes," he said.

"As a result of this, Citrus Australia advises all growers to prepare contingency plans to minimise potential impact on their business during harvest, particularly in areas of labour."

The Victorian Health Minister has reportedly said restrictions never seen before in Australia may be implemented, with movement restrictions possible in all states, which could impact on freight movement.

"As reported there are likely to be impacts on availability of some farming inputs such as fertilisers and agrichemicals but also on componentry and parts for agricultural machinery and equipment," he said.

In 2019 the industry achieved new export records of 304,000 metric tons (MT) of citrus at a value of A$541 million.