By HARRY CLARKE
WHAT’S been described as the most dire worker shortage in living memory will be at the top of the agenda at the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise‘s (TSBE) annual Protein Conference in Dalby this week.
The conference, to be held at the Dalby Events Centre on Wednesday and Thursday, is one of the only events in Australia which brings together stakeholders from across the pork, poultry, dairy and beef sectors.
Supply chain problems, product traceability and technological innovation will be among the key talking points, but FIP Group‘s general manager for sales, Adrienne Ritchie, said labour shortage was currently the agricultural sector’s most pressing issue.
“I’ve never seen the workforce issue as challenging as it is right now,” Ritchie said.
“We’re all dealing with unprecedented times. I’ve been in recruitment for longer than I care to mention and I’ve never seen it like this before.
“People have never been so busy, but unfortunately they don’t have the workforce to support that demand.”
Ritchie said she estimated the national labour shortage in the rural sector would be roughly 10,000, and that the figure had been made worse by pandemic border restrictions.
“There is no one solution. We’ve got to look at international recruitment. We’ve got to make it a lot easier to access,” she said.
“There’s a really big problem at the moment where a lot of the regional companies have got a very high demand for people but they’re unable to accommodate them – so housing is another big problem.”
The keynote address at the Protein Conference will be delivered by Ian McConnell, director of sustainability – international business for Tyson Foods.
Also in the two-day program is an Innovation Session with guest speakers from AgBot, iTrazo and MarchNet, while Jefo Australia sales and managing director Wayne Bradshaw will speak on the topic ‘Nutrition Today – Efficiency’.
TSBE general manager for Food Leaders Australia, Bruce McConnell, said with the wider Darling Downs region comprising 60 percent of Australia’s feedlot cattle and 80 percent of Queensland and NSW pork and chicken production, the 2022 Protein Conference would help the industry work towards industry-wide solutions to issues in across the protein sector.
“We’ll be discussing the industry growth, sustainability, workforce and innovation with some highly regarded expert speakers,” McConnell said.
“These sessions will allow us to further drive investment into the sectors which we know already benefit from our region’s reliable grain production and established infrastructure,” he said.