WA labour to help with harvest shortage

27 Nov, 2010 02:00 AM

WITH skilled harvest labour at a premium across the east coast, and a well below average WA crop meaning less harvest employment opportunities there, WAFarmers and the Victorian Farmers Federation are co-operating on developing a register to match prospective employees and employers.

WAFarmers president Mike Norton encouraged anyone either wanting work or wanting labour to register.

“We’ve heard a few guys over there saying there may be a shortage of labour and with parts of WA finishing up with harvest, it’s a win-win situation,” Mr Norton said.

Currently, he said the register was for work in Victoria, but he said there was no reason it could not be extended to NSW and SA if there was demand.

So far, with the scheme in its infancy, Mr Norton said there had early signs of interest in the west.

“It’s definitely something worth pursuing through using our connections across the country.”

He said WAFarmers envisaged those signing up would mainly be younger workers.

“A lot of the younger ones haven’t had access to their normal work with CBH, given some bins aren’t opening.

“This is more or less a chance to put them in groups and bring them over.”

VFF grains group president Russell Amery said the register was a ‘fantastic’ example of two state farmer organisations working together.

“There have been a lot of reports on the differences between the various SFOs, but this shows how we can all work together,” he said.

“This is a great offer by WAFarmers to put Victorian growers in touch with a workforce that understands the trials and tribulations of harvest.”

Mr Amery said while the focus in Victoria was still primarily on setting up for harvest in terms of equipment, there had been some early interest.

“Given we expect a big harvest and that with weather concerns, farmers will want to get it off even quicker than usual, there’s no harm in letting people know that there is a workforce available.”

He said there had been interest both from farmers and contractors.

“Some people want an extra truck driver, while the contractors realise they can’t work their staff 24 hours a day and are looking for another person so they can give people a rest.”

Mr Amery said farmers would also look at getting a chaser bin in to allow headers to work faster.

“I’ve heard that with two headers in the paddock, a chaser bin is equivalent to a third header, so getting someone in would help growers get the crop off quicker.”

He said at this stage, the move out of Western Australia was confined to labour and some trucks.

“Getting headers across would be a bit tricky, given the quarantine issues, guys would want to make sure they had work lined up before they got over here.”

Mr Norton said he expected more trucks to head east to cart grain.

“A lot of people have been carting livestock east, so they have a feeling for whether there’s work or not.

“If there is, it’s just a matter of getting the tipper on the back and heading across.”

WAFarmers has also heard of strong demand from the east coast for chaser bins and other equipments, with one WA manufacturer getting five separate inquiries for chaser bins out of Victoria alone last week.

There is also interest in drying equipment.

Tim Sampson, of Albany Grain Drying, said he expected any interest would be in farmer-sized units, rather than his commercial-sized operation, however, he said drying equipment could be invaluable on the east coast.

“It gives farmers a chance to go when the grain is right, just a little bit high in moisture, and this means they can get it off before there are substantial rains that cause downgrading.”

Mr Norton, however, said it was unlikely too much drying equipment would move across given that the areas in WA that use the equipment, primarily in the Esperance and Albany port zones, have the best crops in the state and would still be using the equipment.

This week’s CBH harvest report has total receivals for WA at 2.6 million tonnes so far, with the harvest in the northern Geraldton zone now winding down.

There was a further blow in what has been a horror year for growers in the Koorda region of the central wheat belt, which was hit by hail, causing up to 50pc damage.

However, Mr Norton said in other drought impacted areas, yields were slightly better than anticipated.

“It’s patchy, but in some parts where they are just getting into it, farmers are quietly confident it may go better than predicted.”



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