Monday, 7 May 2012

Asian boost the way forward for agriculture: report

By Catherine Heuzenroeder
Work done by international accounting and advisory firm KPMG has found areas including Eyre Peninsula and the Mallee of South Australia could face shortages of workers, as older farmers make their retirement plans in the next decade.
It concludes Asian workers may be needed to meet the agricultural sector's demand for a skilled workforce, an issue facing agriculture across Australia.
In the Riverland, Vietnamese grower Thuc Vu could not bring himself to leave the land when drought hit and water for irrigation became scarce in recent years.
He made the Riverland his home with wife Van Tran and their four children.
But he faced a defining moment when offered a $400,000 government exit grant to leave his SA property in 2009.
"I couldn't sign it ... I couldn't bring the bulldozers in," he said.
Standing amid the neat rows of snow peas and butternut pumpkins at one of his three Renmark blocks, the quietly-spoken migrant admitted the land had got under his fingernails and into his heart.
"It's part of me, it's in my blood now and I couldn't go, it was too hard to go," he said.
Growing up near rice paddies on his parents' farm in Vietnam, the scarcity of water in the Riverland during the drought was hard to comprehend.
As with migrants before him, many Greek and Indian, who settled in the Riverland to build a new life, Thuc knew the value of hard work.
"We work every day, sometimes packing until early in the morning, always working," he said.
Familiar faces
His wife Van and three daughters, Veronica, Victoria and Vanessa, have become familiar faces at the Riverland farmers markets in Berri on Saturday mornings.
Van sells Asian vegetables and commercially-produced stone fruits and persimmons.
"I love the Riverland ... not at first when I came here, but I stayed here for two years and then I think it's beautiful, it's a good place for us, for the children," she said.
"It's a very good country, we're very lucky to be here, there are a lot of opportunities for us and for the children."
Van grew up in Ho Chi Minh City and met Thuc at school, after he moved to the city aged 13.
Her father arrived in Australia by boat and helped his family, including Van and her siblings make the journey to Australia more than five years later.
"We came here in 1990 and we lived in Melbourne for seven years and then we moved to Adelaide and moved to the Riverland," Van said.
"We came here for a year and then we bought a tiny fruit block and worked on it."
Van and Thuc now own 14 hectares in the Renmark area and, according to the KPMG report, represent the changing face of Australia's agricultural workforce.
Its submission to the Australia in the Asian Century white paper has addressed foreign ownership in Australia's agricultural sector as well as a shift away from family farms toward corporate agribusiness.
 ABC News

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