FEDERAL Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has guaranteed Australia’s food production and supply chain would not be affected by coronavirus shutdowns.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Mr Littleproud labelled food production and supply an essential service and guaranteed it would continue to operate while the government manages the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Littleproud said state-imposed border shutdowns would not affect agricultural supply chains.
This is consistent with the South Australian Government’s stance, listing the sector as essential for cross-border travel without the need to self-isolate for 14 days.
Currently, South Australian Police are patrolling the state’s border at 12 access points, including in the Limestone Coast, with officers to provide exemptions for essential travellers at the border.
Under an emergency directive issued by South Australian Police Commissioner Grant Stevens, a person employed or engaged in the agricultural or primary industry that requires them to be physically present in South Australia will be permitted to cross the SA-Victoria border.
Mr Littleproud said the nation had “plenty of supply” and freight lanes across the country would be kept clear.
“Feed, hay, fertiliser and other agriculture products will continue being delivered to farms,” the minister said.
“Maintaining food production, access to workers, agricultural supply lines, transportation and logistics is absolutely critical and will not be affected by any of the measures aimed at curbing the virus’s spread.”
It followed calls from the National Farmers’ Federation NFF for the government to assure all Australians the agricultural supply chain would not be disrupted by state and territory border closures and mandatory quarantine periods.
“Protecting human health is the most important priority and the requirement for state border closures and mandatory quarantine is understood,” NFF chief executive Tony Mahar said.
“Getting produce from paddock to plate is a complex process that often spans multiple state and territory jurisdictions.
“The government understands the unfettered operation of agriculture and the supply chain services that support it, is fundamental to the health and well-being of all Australians.
“It is common sense that priority provisions be made for agriculture.”
Earlier this week, Member for Barker Tony Pasin said while no region would be immune to the economic impacts of the virus, sectors such as health care, aged care and the agricultural supply chain still required workers.
“We are already beginning to see the economic impacts of COVID-19 as the number of those applying for income support continues to grow,” he said.
“For those who find themselves without a job, our government has strengthened the safety net to ensure we can support those through these difficult times.
“The good news for much of Barker is that our largest employing industry is agriculture and there remains a strong demand for the clean green high quality food we produce.
“These sectors will continue to need workers to get the produce off the tree, out of the paddock and off to market.”