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The national trade organization representing Australia’s commercial seafood industry, Seafood Industry Australia (SIA), has labelled the 2023-24 Federal Budget a “missed opportunity for Regional and Rural Australia”.

In a statement released today, SIA CEO Veronica Papacosta expressed disappointment over the budget’s failure to address the challenges faced by the seafood industry, such as rising production costs and labour shortages.

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“We believe the Government has missed an opportunity to support our seafood producers, businesses and the broader agricultural sector, who play a vital role in the Australian economy and support the livelihoods of thousands of Australians in Regional and Rural Australia,” Papacosta said.

Papacosta also highlighted other budget measures in her criticism, saying: “The increase in the heavy vehicle road user charge, raising the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT), and the biosecurity protection levy to be placed on our producers are going to make it harder for our producers to operate, in an already challenging environment.”

“The Government has missed an opportunity to promote growth and development in Australian agriculture by capping asset write-offs, and lacks a focus on domestic manufacturing initiatives.”

Australia reliant on foreign labour for seafood sector

Worker shortages, Papacosta said, are a key problem facing Australia’s seafood industry.

“Australia’s food supply-chain has faced well documented worker shortages since COVID, and the increase to the TSMIT is going to make it harder and more costly for Australian businesses to attract and retain the workers we need,” Papcosta argued.

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“We are an industry reliant on foreign labour. We simply cannot find Australians willing to fill our vacant roles. What the TSMIT increase fails to take into account are the standing costs associated with the use of foreign labour including visas, insurance and travel. Importantly, this is not unique to the seafood sector. This decision will increase hardship to businesses already under strain right across the supply-chain,” she added.

Seafood traceability and biosecurity welcomed, but come at a price, says SIA

“We acknowledge and thank the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Senator Murray Watt for reaffirming the government’s committed to continuing the rollout of country of origin seafood labelling sold in foodservice over the next 12 months,” Papacosta said.

However, while SIA recognizes the government’s efforts to increase biosecurity funding, Papacosta argued that the risk-creators should receive more focus. She highlighted that the costs placed on those who benefit from a strong biosecurity system, coupled with the TSMIT and road use increases, can add up, resulting in real implications for the Australian food industry.

In March 2023, an Australian government report predicted that the gross value of Australia’s seafood industry would rise 8% in 2022−23, reaching $3.63 billion. Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) executive director Jared Greenville said the aquaculture sector has been driving most of this growth.

About Seafood Industry Australia

Seafood Industry Australia (SIA) is the national peak-body representing the Australian seafood industry as a whole. With members from the wildcatch, aquaculture and post-harvest sectors of the Australian seafood industry, we are the voice of Australian seafood. SIA provides consumers, Government and other stakeholders with confident and united representation. SIA provides services identified through a process involving member input to fill a critical gap that currently exists, to have more influence on Government decisions, to act as a national industry voice, to be a marketing and communications hub, and to remove obstacles to growth standing in the way of the Australian seafood industry.

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