The extent of labour challenges in the horticultural industry was highlighted on TV by the Victorian Farmers Federation on Thursday night.
VFF vice-president Emma Germano said Prime Minister Scott Morrison had outlined the federal government's commitment to an agricultural visa while presenting to the National Farmers Federation Congress last year.
At that time, the Prime Minister requested data to help quantify the extent of the issue.
"It is of great concern that the current data driving the government's workforce policy does not reflect the extent of the problem," Germano said.
"The grave reality is that undocumented workers account for a large proportion of Australia's seasonal harvest workforce.
"Farmers cannot share information that reflects this reality for fear of reprisal from government agencies.
"The VFF was well placed to undertake anonymous research on behalf of the industry due to its independence from the government and position of trust that allowed producers to share their understanding of the workforce."
The survey performed by the VFF found there to be a labour shortage across the selected growing region, even when accounting for the use of undocumented workers.
About 70 per cent of respondents believed they had undocumented workers on their property with undocumented workers accounting for up to about 30 per cent of the total workforce in the region.
"About 60 per cent of business operators indicated their intent to grow their business over the next five years, which will compound the labour shortfall if left unresolved," Ms Germano said.
Instead of the survey findings becoming a catalyst for farm inspections in the region, the VFF urged the federal government to use the opportunity to implement a solution to the industry's ongoing dilemma.
"Instead of persecuting undocumented workers and farmers alike, the VFF is calling for status resolution for workers and a fit-for-purpose visa solution to give farmers confidence to grow their businesses," Ms Germano said. .
"The VFF has held up its end of the bargain and helped the government understand the extent of the issue.
"It is now up to them to provide industry with an agricultural visa and a meaningful solution to undocumented workers," she said.
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