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GrainGrowers Annual Policy Survey has given a revealing insight around challenges within the grains workforce, delivering extensive data on ongoing issues impacting the sector.

Workforce and recruitment questions in the survey of 663 growers across Australia has now provided a detailed snapshot of the problems that exist and opened the door to exploring options to address a range of relevant issues.

GrainGrowers CEO Shona Gawel said while there was previously plenty of anecdotal evidence, the survey provided detailed evidence and data from those people directly impacted by the current problems.

“To effect change we need accurate data to underpin our requests and to support our discussions. This survey has delivered that foundational information and is an important step forward for the grains industry in terms of workforce and recruitment,” she said.

The survey results detailed that over two thirds of growers employed someone on the farm, with 31% of respondents stating they had attempted to source workers in the 12 months to March 2024.

The breakdown of those who advertised and successfully filled positions highlights a continuing shortfall in available workers.

Of those growers seeking workers, 77% advertised for Grain Farm Workers, yet only 47% successfully filled the position. For the position of Tractor/Harvester Operators, 45% of growers advertised, while 58% successfully filled the position. The third top category of workers required was Truck Drivers, with 31% advertised and 45% successfully filling the position.

The survey revealed greater demand for labour from larger farms, with 45% of farms greater than 3,000ha seeking employees.

GrainGrowers CEO Shona Gawel said the survey results provided additional evidence of workforce issues across the grains industry.

“While some of the issues are common to seasonal roles, there remains a large number of full-time, ongoing or permanent positions that are simply unable to be filled.”

A case in point, she said, was for the most heavily advertised position of Grain Farm Worker.

“For Grain Farm Workers, three-quarters of respondents advertised for full-time positions, with 62% for ongoing or permanent positions and just 39% for seasonal roles. This data highlights a real gap in the grains workforce, and we need to carefully consider how this can be addressed across the longer term.”

Ms Gawel said an important component of grain farm labour is access to overseas workers.

She said the survey indicated that nationally one in five respondents were looking overseas for workers, with an even higher proportion (35%) from Western Australian farms.

The report highlights a diversity of countries with similar cropping supply chains and workforce skills, with Germany, the United Kingdom, France, New Zealand, and Denmark listed as the top five countries of origin for overseas workers.

“The results show the need for tailored solutions for different cropping regions and the opportunity to establish accessible migration pathways to assist how the grains industry can access international labour.”

Ms Gawel said the issues raised by this survey component would feed into existing work underway to improve workforce access.

“We are committed to improving the position of growers by driving change and building a more sustainable and profitable industry, and grower surveys like this allow us to fine-tune our approach to these essential issues,” she said.

Further details on the survey and a copy of the report are available on the GrainGrowers website.


GrainGrowers Media Contact:

Chris Rowley, Media Manager

P: 0415 140 253 | ua.moc.sreworgniarg@yelwor.sirhc