Agriculture declared an essential service

By Country News

The Federal Government has confirmed agriculture and agribusiness as essential services.

A Victorian Government spokesperson said if activities were not listed by the National Cabinet, they could continue while abiding by required social distancing and other preventative health measures.

The National Farmers’ Federation chief executive officer Tony Mahar said consistency was still needed to ensure that the agricultural supply chain would not be disrupted by state and territory border closures.

“We are calling on governments to immediately formally implement and communicate nationally consistent straight-forward exemptions for farmers and transport operators, so Australians’ access to fresh produce can continue to be guaranteed,” he said.

“Whether it’s moving fruit from north Queensland to New South Wales, or livestock from selling centres in Victoria to processors in South Australia, freedom of movement is critical.”

NFF president Fiona Simson said the flow of essential agricultural inputs such as fertiliser and crop protection products needed to be unobstructed.

“Discussions also remain active about how to protect the workforce of key facilities such as abattoirs, should there be a positive COVID-19 test,” she said.

Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke said the VFF had been working with the Victorian Government to ensure that agribusiness could continue to operate.

“Victoria’s agricultural sector is the backbone of our state and a fundamental component of our economy,” Mr Jochinke said.

Victoria produces more than $13 billion worth of milk, fruit, vegetables, meat, fibre, eggs and grains and supports a processed food industry worth $38 billion according to recent Victorian Government data.

Mr Jochinke said the VFF had a close relationship with the government and it would address any arising issues.

“The important thing is that we are all working together to secure the future of our agricultural industry and continuing to produce to feed Victorians during these trying times.”