Many Australians have been panic buying, clearing out supermarket shelves, prepping for COVID-19 lockdown periods. Although it might feel like we’re running out of essentials when you see news footage or if you have recently visited a major supermarket, there’s really no need to panic because there is plenty of food to go around.
Farming nearly always means you are working remotely, social distancing is no big deal in the country, and for most Australian’s out on the land - we're used to ‘working from home’. Even though there are going to be some limitations on practical farming like attending things like agtech events and sale-yards, for the most part, farming as we know it continues.
Unlike many other countries that are amid the Coronavirus pandemic, Australian’s really do have good access to home-grown, high quality and safe food, and our food system is extremely secure.
The Land Newspaper and ACM recently conducted a survey of Broadacre farmers (over the weekend of the 19th and 22nd of March), as they wanted to gain a better insight into how the Agricultural sector feels about COVID-19 and if they think the lockdowns will affect their ability to continue business as usual.
"The results from 733 farm owners who were surveyed showed that overall, 86% of farmers believe their business will viable after COVID-19, 11% don’t know, and 3% believed that they wouldn’t be."
Yes, this is devastating for the 3%, but compared to some other industries including food service, the survey suggests that Australian producers are confident producers will get off lightly. And thanks to the support of Australia’s strong ag community and government assistance packages, we’re sure that those primary producers who do lose out will be offered (some) financial assistance and lots of support from the community and professional associations.
Of course, we all know that these are uncertain times and that we need to be prepared. There are going to be people reacting to media stories and anxiety that will lead them to ‘stocking up’ - but if all Australian’s just went back to buying what they needed to there would be enough to go around - at least when it comes to Australian grown produce and essentials manufactured here (pretty much all of them!).
"We all know that our Australian farms are not shutting down. We couldn’t. It’s just that the buying patterns of Australia have suddenly changed, and this has been placing a huge strain on the distribution of food and other essentials in those final links of the supply chain."
Food just hasn’t been able to make it onto the shelves fast enough to meet people buying two, three, or four times what they usually buy.
Now that the Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud has deemed food production and supply as an essential service, Australia’s food producers and consumers should have even more confidence as the announcement confirms that Australia’s agricultural supply chain will continue trading across state borders. And although Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia have some border restrictions in place, (see the latest COVID-19: Border Control Information here), all states will allow passage to truck drivers, on-board stockmen, vets, and most other agricultural freight associated labour. Some agricultural businesses may have some restrictions, but they can apply to be granted exemptions so long as they prepare a COVID-19 management plan.
National Farmer's Federation Chief Executive Tony Mahar has also assured Australians that the sector is continuing to produce "plenty" of food and that there is no threat of a shortage.
"People don't have to worry about the food supply, that is one issue they don't have to worry about. Australian farmers produce plenty of food for the country," Mahar told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio.
So, for now, can we all agree that the message from Australian farmers to consumers should be ‘relax, stay calm, be sensible and we'll get through this’?
Australia produces enough food for 75 million people in and there's only 25 million of us. We are not going to run out of food.
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Business as usual for Australian industry, Wednesday 25 March 2020, Produce Plus
Coronvirus shutdown won't delay farmers, food and freight, Tuesday 25 March 2020, Qld Country Life
Farmers call for calm amid unprecedented coronavirus supermarket panic buying, Saturday 21, ABC.net.au