PROCESSING issues have caused the price of lamb meat to plummet, causing great concern for local farmers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused several processing facilities in Victoria to operate at limited capacity, creating a slip in prices.
NSW Farmers president and Guyra farmer James Jackson said the downward trend in prices could pose issues for farmers recovering from drought.
"It would be particularly cruel for producers who have spent a fortune on keeping animals going through the drought to be denied a fair return on the stock they have to market because of labour issues in the processing industry," Mr Jackson said.
"Earlier in the year, lamb prices were sitting around $9 a kilogram, while now they're closer to $5 a kilogram.
"Producers who purchased store lambs earlier in the year are also set to lose out, facing much lower market prices despite fattening and improving the stock."
Mr Jackson's comments come after one of the country's biggest beef processors Teys expressed concerns about record-high job vacancies at its sites across Australia.
"A high percentage of workers in processing plants are from overseas on short term visas and the crisis has meant some are no longer able to stay in Australia," Mr Jackson said.
"We need appropriate permit systems for agriculture to ensure flow of workforce across borders, and we need solutions around entry visas."
Teys manager of corporate and industry affairs John Langbridge said the high number of job vacancies, of which 30 are at its Tamworth site, was because unemployed people are opting to go on JobSeeker instead.
"JobSeeker was a good temporary measure to support the economy but Teys feels as though it is now competing with the government for workers," Mr Langbridge said.
"There are many pathways for advancement in this industry and we also offer training programs that can upskill workers into better paying jobs.
"Processing plants are not what many expect, in the food manufacturing sector, hygiene and food safety is paramount, so this ensures a high-quality work environment."
However, Elders stock agent John Goudge said the local market was not all doom and gloom.
"I suppose we are all in a bit of uncertainty at the moment and we are all hoping things get back to normal," Mr Goudge said.
"The lamb job has gotten a bit cheaper because there has been an influx of sucker lambs coming through the market, especially in the south.
"We produce a top-quality product in Australia and I think the greatest thing that affects our supply is the season, with a good season like we're having means we'll be in for a good year."