Agriculture ‘essential’ as COVID-19 escalates

In a week where many have questioned business closures across the country, one thing is clear: agriculture and more specifically, agricultural jobs, are essential to keep Australia moving. 

Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about food security as they witness bare shelves in supermarkets with household staples such as pasta, minced meat and eggs becoming harder to purchase.  

Confronted by these bare shelves, consumers have raised concerns about running out of food which has sparked an increase in panic buying but leading agriculture bodies have reassured the public that even during this pandemic, it is business as usual for Australian farmers.  

Between 80-96% of the food on our supermarket shelves is Australian grown with Aussie farmers producing enough food to feed 75 million people which is triple Australia’s population.  

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, the amount of food Australian farmers produce hasn’t changed, and it won’t.  

National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President Fiona Simson reiterated the point that Australian consumers do not need to be concerned about a national food shortage.  

“Bare supermarket shelves can be unsettling during these uncertain times and it’s natural to want to look after our families as best we can,” Ms Simson said. 

“Our food supply chain is adjusting to the increase in demand from panic buying in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
“Consumption has not increased. We’re urging shoppers to stick to their normal buying patterns to ensure everyone can access the groceries they need. 
“If we do that, there is more than enough to go around.” 

On Wednesday, Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud announced that Australia’s food production and supply chain would not be affected by coronavirus shutdowns and that food production and supply was considered an essential service.  

“I am in constant dialogue with farming groups, the States, supermarkets and my department to make sure there’s food on the table for all Australians,” Mr Littleproud said.  

“Feeding our nation is an essential service.”

Mr Littleproud also assured agribusinesses that State-imposed border shutdowns would not affect agricultural supply chains and that trucks carrying food and produce would continue to make its way to supermarkets.  

“Australians can be assured that their farmers will be able to keep producing the great food they’re renowned for the world over.  

“This food will arrive fresh and on time at their local supermarket the same as it’s always done.  

“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.” 

On Friday, Minister Littleproud also confirmed that livestock saleyards and wool auctions are able to continue as they are an essential part of the broader agriculture supply chain.

“Like the rest of Australia, livestock saleyards and wool auctions will need to comply with strict social distancing and hygiene practices. 

“Like the rest of Australia, livestock saleyards and wool auctions will need to comply with strict social distancing and hygiene practices. 

Tegan Scott

Tegan Scott

Is the Community & Engagement Officer at the National Farmers' Federation.

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