The West

Idle crops will lead to fruit and veg price rise
Dr Mal Washer. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian

Supplies of some popular WA fruit and vegetables have already started to tighten because of the labour shortage created by this week's raids on illegal workers.

Many fields in the Carabooda area north of Wanneroo have sat idle for days as growers struggle to find staff to replace the 190 mostly Vietnamese workers taken into custody this week.

One leading wholesaler - who did not want to be identified - claimed supplies of silver beet and Asian vegetables were down about 75 per cent, while broccoli, lettuce and other vegetables were down about 30 per cent.

"It's not just the people who have been detained - other foreigners who are allowed to work are not turning up because they are fearful and don't really know what is happening," he said.

The wholesaler also said he expected the supply shortage would lead to higher prices - the effect of which would probably be felt for months.


Carabooda avocado grower and former Federal Liberal MP Mal Washer said he had only ever used legal workers on his farm but they were at least 2½ times the price of illegal workers.

He said growers who had relied on illegal labour for years would struggle to stay in business, further compounding supply issues. "Your number one cost is your labour cost and if we get a rise in costs they (supermarkets) are not that keen on letting us pass it on to them," Dr Washer said.

"We are price takers."

He said that as an MP he had raised concerns about illegal workers several times and was glad to see something significant was finally being done to clean up the industry.

The West Australian

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