The federal government is under increasing pressure to address Australia's shearing shortage as the industry reaches crisis point.
And key participants are anxious, saying if the backlog of wool isn't soon harvested, a major animal welfare crisis could unfold.
One solution touted in recent weeks was for the federal government to assist in the facilitation of more skilled shearers from the United Kingdom.
WoolProducers Australia CEO Jo Hall believes the industry is on the doorstep of a very real crisis.
"This isn't a knee-jerk reaction, this is something that the industry has been calling for for years," Ms Hall said.
"The pandemic has only highlighted the situation. Things are pretty dire, as in immediately finding a pool of skilled wool harvesting staff."
Ms Hall said in 2016 WoolProducers Australia highlighted to AWI that they needed to be working on a retention strategy, because the numbers were shrinking.
She said AWI had a great shearer training initiative but the attraction and retention on shearers was a major concern.
"There is nothing, whether it is training, or access to international pools of labour, that is going to make shearers appear overnight and that is what we need at the moment," she said.
"We are at best working on medium-term goals."
SCAA secretary Jason Letchford said Australia had a massive number of sheep that need to be put over the shearing board, immediately.
"There are so many stories now that people are just going to leave behind generations of wool growing in their family and shift to non-wool growing livestock, then that is a crisis," Mr Letchford said.
He said the door was open for anyone to now come into Australia, but accessing a visa to work as a shearer in Australia comes with its own issues.
"SCAA is not aware of a visa that is easily available to bring skilled workers from other countries including the UK," Mr Letchford said.
"Plus bringing in shearers from the UK is not an industry pathway that would open up to a permanent solution."
Mr Letchford said Pacific Island worker employment arrangements under the Pacific Australian Labour Mobility (PALM) scheme, which is hoped to be up and running in the near future, will potentially change the industry.
"The PALM scheme has the potential to be a wholesale solution as opposed to getting a small number of British backpackers under the age of 30 who can shear a couple of crossbreds and solve our shearing crisis," he said.
"It is a wholesale pathway that can be replicated.
"We can train these people legitimately and with the blessing of the unions and all parties involved, then we can get on with it.
"Anything less than that is sticking chewing gum in the hole of a leaking boat."
With last year's census data not coming out until later this year, the most recent numbers from 2016 show there were just 2842 shearers in Australia.
Those numbers revealed that in the 10 years from the 2006 census, the shearing industry had lost 32pc of their workforce.
Ms Hall said unfortunately no overseas labour schemes were suited to the profession of shearing.
"There is scope for wool handlers, but given the pastoral care requirements, there is nothing really adequate for shearers," Ms Hall said.
"What we would like to see is the establishment of a fit for purpose visa for wool harvesting - be that shearers or wool handlers."
According to Ms Hall, since the start of the pandemic, WoolProducers Australia have been requesting the federal Agricultural Minister and all state agricultural ministers, to ensure free passage for wool harvesting teams, both domestically and internationally.
A spokesperson from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment said the Australian government recognised that workforce availability had been an ongoing concern for the agriculture sector, including the wool industry, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The Australian Government reopened the international border for fully vaccinated eligible visa holders in December last year meaning that eligible visa holders, including skilled visa subclasses used by the wool industry to bring in shearers, could enter Australia without requiring an exemption," the spokesperson said.
"During the height of the pandemic and related border restriction shearers were identified as a critical skill that the Australian Border Force Commissioner considered in granting individual exemptions from Australia's travel restrictions."
They said flexibility was also provided for temporary visa holders already in Australia to extend their visas if they wish to remain and continue to work in agriculture.
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