Worker shortage threatens season success

Worker shortage threatens season success

It’s hard to believe we’re almost into March. It seems like only yesterday we finished the 2023 sugarcane harvest, yet here we are, just 13 weeks out from the 2024 crush.

While officially a quiet period in the industry, there is still plenty of work underway.

Maintenance is the primary activity, with machinery being stripped down and tuned up in farm sheds and sugar mills across the industry.

Meanwhile, out in the paddocks the cane is looking excellent. In fact, if the sunny, humid conditions continue, we may well be looking at a bumper crop.

Add to that the high world sugar price, and there is reason to be optimistic about the year ahead.

However, as is often the case, it’s not all good news. As the clock rapidly winds down to harvest, many districts are once again experiencing workforce shortages.

Truck drivers, haul out drivers, harvester drivers, farm hands, and even mill workers are all in short supply.

Some districts are more severely affected than others, with the problem ranging from a minor inconvenience in some regions, to a serious risk to the season in others.

It’s a real problem for the sugarcane industry, and for agriculture more generally, but it’s also an opportunity.

Australia has just recorded its highest unemployment rate in two years, but in sugarcane regions we’re crying out for workers, both skilled and unskilled.

Harvester and haul out drivers require no specific qualifications. If you can drive a car and have an open licence, you can learn to drive a haul out or harvester.

If you’re handy and like to work in the outdoors, a farm hand might be the perfect job for you. No qualifications required.

Truck drivers require an MR licence, but there is a wealth of training courses out there and, with qualified drivers in such short supply, the rates of pay are usually attractive.

In short, if you are unemployed and from a cane-growing region, or you would like to travel to one, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to take on a role in the sugarcane industry.

I would encourage anyone looking for employment, or who knows someone who needs a job, to consider a career in sugarcane this season.