From Bruce McConnel, TSBE General Manager Food Leaders Australia
During this time of difficulty with COVID-19 looming, Australia’s food and agribusinesses have absolutely jumped to the challenge to make sure they are getting as much food as possible into the hands of people that need it. One of the first trends that we saw in the sector was people needing to pivot and change their business models looking at market diversification including offering food delivery to households, with produce being moved away from high end restaurants, as people couldn’t go out for a meal and restrictions were tightened. The speed of which our region’s food producers were able to do that was absolutely outstanding, which mean they have been able to capture opportunities during this period of time and see their businesses continue to hold staff and create economic growth for our region.
We’ve seen businesses like Four Daughters Premium Black Angus shift to focus on the domestic market, releasing their family mixed packs, featuring seven cuts of their 150 Day Grain Fed Black Angus Beef, which otherwise tends to not be available to the public. The team are already packing many their pink boxes, ready for delivery across the state. Other businesses have even opened new employment opportunities as they keep up with demand for certain products. Kialla Pure Foods welcomed new staff members to their team, all who has lost their previous jobs due to COVID-19. The Greenmount business saw a 300% lift on previous weeks when the first purchases hit in early March for many retail flour products and have remained strong since then.
The current worldwide crisis has strengthened the need for businesses to have regular ‘health checks’ within their business, across the region business leaders are staying well connected and investing in learning opportunities, to improve business management skills to assist in this time of change. To support this, digital workshops have been conducted, like our recent Lead and Empower 101 online workshop, helping participants in need of coaching, staff development, and strategic advice. Also, both our major local educational institutes, University of Southern Queensland and TAFE Queensland are offering free mini courses and webinars to provide high value learning opportunities for both individuals and businesses.
And with our hospitality sector taking one of the biggest hits during this pandemic, it’s been immense to see the community rallying together to support cafes, and in turn, our front-line healthcare workers. 17 local cafes, restaurants and food delivery services became a part of TSBE’s Healthy Help campaign, which thanks to donations from our community, allow businesses to create healthy and frozen meals, which are delivered to our medical community. To date, hundreds of meals have been delivered to health workers and many hospitality groups have been able to keep their doors open and employers on board thanks to the campaign.
These examples of opportunity will lead to an increase of farm-gate opportunities that will continue to see the Australian agricultural sector find new opportunities and be vital during this period.
The team at Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise Food Leaders Australia are proud to be helping these businesses find those opportunities and, in particular, advocate for what they need to make sure they can access those markets as quickly as possible. That means getting air freight capability out of Wellcamp Airport to get our regions’ food into these opening export markets and not having that export capability exclusively in the capital airports. And we continue to work closely with service providers to ensure that their product solutions suit the markets and the commodities that are produced within this region.