Clarification of agriculture's role during coronavirus shutdown

SA still open for business for rural transporters, says LRTAV

Coronavirus
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Agricultural industries need clarity over COVID-19 shutdown: Walsh

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TRANSPORT MOVEMENTS: Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Victoria president John Beer has reassured drivers and owners that they'll still be able to get into South Australia.

TRANSPORT MOVEMENTS: Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Victoria president John Beer has reassured drivers and owners that they'll still be able to get into South Australia.

The state opposition has called for greater clarity around the Victorian shutdown of non-essential services, which begins today.

Supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, butchers, bakers and greengrocers will be among the essential services to remain open, along with petrol stations and freight and delivery services

But opposition Agriculture spokesman Peter Walsh said he had received many phone calls from farmers and farm businesses, asking what that meant to them.

"There's still a lot of confusion," Mr Walsh said.

"After all, the agriculture sector is responsible for supplying these 'essential services'.

"I'm urgently seeking clarification that food processors, abattoirs and agriculture companies in the supply chain, such as those providing chemical and fertiliser, will be considered an essential service."

The Prime Minister, state and territory leaders, agreed to strict new measures, to slow the spread of coronavirus, at a cabinet meeting last night.

Included in the measures are a ban on non-essential travel in Australia.

Some states are closing their borders to non-residents of that state, unless it is for essential travel reasons , such as work, compassionate reasons and essential deliveries.

Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke said agriculture would continue to function, but it would probably not entirely be "business as usual.

"The word essential is probably pretty broad," Mr Jochinke said.

The government had assured him the agricultural sector would be able to continue operating, albeit while taking the proper precautions.

"It's the whole agricultural supply chain we need to have operated, at the national level, human health is the number one priority, behind that is the food supply chain," Mr Jochinke said.

"That's a similar sentiment to what I've been getting out of the Victorian government.

"We are encouraging people to put in place good practices to reduce the spread and transmission of coronavirus."

That might mean not taking the stock agent into a paddock, or practising social distancing measures when unloading livestock or picking up fertiliser.

Mr Jochinke said the industry couldn't flaunt the exemption it had been granted.

"We need to take this seriously, but we also need to be able to function, as well," he said

"Striking a happy medium is what we are trying to do, as an industry."

Mr Jochinke said Victoria's agricultural sector was the backbone of the state and a fundamental component of the economy.

"These are unprecedented times.

"The silver lining in all of this is the close relationship and partnership that VFF has established with government."

Mr Jochinke said there would be challenges ahead and the VFF was planning, mapping and addressing them

"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," he said.

On social media, Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said the government would ensure farms continued to operate.

And Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Victoria president John Beer sought to assure trucking companies and operators that they would still be allowed into South Australia after that state closed its borders.

"All freight will be going through; it's not going to be stopped," Mr Beer said.

Mr Beer said the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of SA had assured him that while drivers would have to answer basic questions, at the border, they would be allowed to travel into the state.

"The idea is to stop tourists, drivers will be asked questions about where they are going," he said.

"There is freight going across there, all the time.

"There's a fair bit of stuff coming across the paddock now, with sheep coming across from Western Australia."

Livestock transporters would still be permitted to take animals to South Australian works.

LRTASA president David Smith said he had been assured by the SA government all freight would be allowed into the state.

"In terms of freight, that means livestock, to refrigerated goods, to general freight," Mr Smith said.

"There is no restriction on freight, all freight is exempt from the border shutdown.

He said it also covered empty trucks, which had delivered loads into Victoria, or South Australia, and those that backloaded other cargoes.

"You may have to sign a declaration as to who you are, where you have come from, and where you're going," Mr Smith said.

The government might also introduce temperature checks, on drivers.

In NSW, Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall has confirmed all businesses in the agriculture supply chain will be regarded as essential.

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