14 April 2020

Workforce

The NT Farmers Association says it continues to be inundated with enquiries from people looking for a job, with up to 500 emails and phone calls coming through daily.

 

The agricultural sector is scrambling to ensure seasonal workers can come to properties for necessary work, without jeopardising their own safety and the communities they are travelling into. COVID-19 restrictions and risks of shutdown in the event of an infection are a challenge for horticulturalists whose businesses rely on itinerant and seasonal labour.

 

There are concerns that a perfect storm is brewing in rural communities such as Robinvale, as workers struggle to be accommodated without overcrowding and many from non-English speaking backgrounds potentially unable to understand critical health messaging. 

 

A new report from The Australia Institute's Centre for Future Work estimated about 30 per cent of Australian jobs could conceivably be performed from home.

 

Agriculture and environmental studies have been deemed “national priorities” for short term, reduced price courses to be provided by Australian universities in a bid to boost the education sector.

 

Food Security

Australian milk production was up 8.1% this February on the previous year, though  year-to-date production was down 2.6pc to the end of February. Milk production was up in all states, except Queensland.

 

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, a group of irrigators have urged swift action on releasing water from the Murray Darling to ensure food security.

 

The NFF has hit out at 60 Minutes after the program tied water access to the country running out of food during the pandemic. The NFF in an open letter labelled it "reckless scaremongering".

 

Fears have been raised in Australia over milk dumping following footage released from European countries, but the Australian Dairy Farmers president Terry Richardson that there is little risk of that occurring in Australia. The dairy industry has formed a National Response Group to ensure a united response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining supply chains and product quality, and protecting the health and safety of farmers and workers.

 

Central Queensland cattle producer Melinee feels that the current pandemic has done wonders for awakening Australians to the importance of biosecurity in agriculture

 

Demand

Though much of agriculture is well placed to deal with the pandemic, smaller producers who supply directly to restaurants, cafes and hotels are struggling after demand has dropped by up to 90%.

 

Boutique businesses reliant on farm gate sales and tourism are struggling in this crisis, as shutdowns and reduced demands in what is usually a peak period leave them concerned for the future.

 

The Limestone Coast town of Robe has seen its local boutique businesses shift to home delivery, in a bid to help the local economy which is so dependent on tourism. 

 

Hundreds of tonnes of watermelons have been left to rot in a Central Australian paddock while underemployed international workers watch on.

 

Markets

After hitting a record high in February, the National Australia Bank's Rural Commodities Index jumped another 5.8 per cent in March, energised by better seasonal conditions, the devalued dollar and solid domestic demand for farm sector produce.

 

Dairy analysts are warning the COVID-19 crisis will put pressure on global dairy prices well into 2021 and will hit opening prices in Australia.

 

There are glimmers of hope in wool market as indicators rise slightly after the biggest drops in years, though the prices are likely buoyed by the reduced product available to purchase at the markets. 

 

Bushfire Recovery

Many victims of this summer’s bushfires feel they are being forgotten in the wake of the global pandemic.