As if the past years have not been challenging enough for many farmers and regional communities, we are now dealing with new issues that we could not have imagined just a month ago with the coronavirus recently classified a pandemic. The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) and the state government are closely monitoring the effects of COVID-19 and are continuing to work with industry, and other government agencies, to facilitate business continuity throughout supply chains and to maintain Queensland’s reputation as a safe, ethical and sustainable supplier of agricultural products.
With Queensland’s quality agricultural produce being successfully exported to a range of countries, our industries will see adverse effects as a result of the disease. We are also experiencing a downturn in visitor numbers through our agritourism venues and reduced domestic demand as the tourism, restaurant and cafe industries suffer. However, it’s critical to remind the public that Queensland, and indeed Australia, produces a wide range of fresh foods meaning that domestic food security is strong.
Financial assistance is now available to Queensland agribusiness exporters affected by the outbreak through the state government’s Market Diversification and Resilience Grants Program and QFF is encouraging farmers to investigate their eligibility for this support. We are also calling on the Australian Government to continuously monitor workforce availability and investigate extending visas for current seasonal workers as travel bans are enforced.
QFF recommends that farms and processing facilities create and continuously review a business continuity plan to address the issues that may impact their businesses, paying attention to supply chains and animal welfare. We also ask that farmers don’t panic buy. We appreciate that some chemicals are manufactured overseas and demand for fertilisers and herbicides is rising based on increasing confidence and plantings stimulated by the widespread rain. The recent bans for cargo ships docking into Australian ports will also disrupt some of our supply chains. There are currently enough products to go around if farmers only purchase what they need to plant now and do not stockpile. We must all remain diligent about the accuracy of the information we share and take precautions to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe at this time.