Agriculture industry engagement on COVID-19 issues

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is changing the way we live and work.

Our agriculture industries are essential. We need to ensure these industries stay strong through this unprecedented period.

We are working closely with industry to make this happen. As part of this work the Agriculture Industry Engagement on COVID19 Team has been established.

Agriculture Industry Engagement on COVID19 Team

Who is involved

Mark Tucker is the Senior Agriculture Industry Engagement Officer 

Mark is a former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Agriculture. He has a strong understanding of Australia’s agriculture industry.

Scope of work

Mark Tucker is the central point of contact for industry groups. This includes agriculture, fisheries and forestry stakeholders. He works with Australian and state governments to ensure industry perspectives inform decisions.

Together, we will maintain Australia’s vital agriculture production and supply chains.

Contact

We want to hear from you. You can help identify the critical issues for industry.

Email coronavirus.industry@agriculture.gov.au.

Essential services

To slow the COVID-19 outbreak, restrictions are in place on non-essential gatherings and businesses. Check restrictions on non-essential services.

Generally, if your business is not on that list, you can consider your business essential.

If you are unsure, contact state or territory health and agriculture authorities to confirm local arrangements.

Emerging issues

Mark is working closely with the agriculture industry to identify key issues.

We will provide updates and information on emerging issues.

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State and territory border restrictions

States and territories have announced a range of border measures in response to COVID-19.

They know the importance of maintaining agriculture, food and fibre supply chains and moving goods around Australia. Services that support agriculture may need to seek exemption from border restrictions.

Each state and territory have their own entry requirements. These are rapidly evolving. Make sure you understand exceptions for industry.

Go to Local advice for information on border restrictions.

Access to designated biosecurity zones (NT, SA, Qld and WA)

Our biosecurity laws designate some remote communities as ‘biosecurity zones’. This restricts the movement of people and goods to control the spread of coronavirus to vulnerable people.

Primary producers and those in closely related services need to be able to access designated zones.

Recent amendments now allow access for these groups. The necessary movement of people and products into these zones is still closely controlled.

See the guidance on how to safely access designated remote areas (Department of Health). 

Read the detail in Biosecurity (Human Biosecurity Emergency) (Human Coronavirus with Pandemic Potential) (Emergency Requirements for Remote Communities) Amendment (No. 1) Determination 2020.

Agriculture workforce

Our ministers have been working on ways to meet the ongoing needs for the agriculture workforce. 

Horticulture industries, in particular, rely on migrant workers. Changes to temporary visas will help producers access the workers they need. This secures Australia’s food and produce supply during COVID-19.

Those in the Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme can now continue to work in agriculture and food processing for up to 12 months.

Working Holiday Makers (WHMs) who work in agriculture or food processing will be:

  • exempt from the 6-month limit on work with the 1 employer
  • eligible for a further visa to keep working in these critical sectors, if their current visa is due to expire in the next 6 months.

These measures provide further job opportunities to support business and secure Australia’s food supply.

Read advice for working holiday maker visa holders.

Harvest jobs

Australian harvest work is seasonal and includes jobs such as picking fruit and vegetables, working in packing sheds and processing plants, or pruning and planting. For more information about available harvest jobs across Australia go to jobsearch.gov.au or call the Hotline  1800 062 332.

Meeting workforce principles

All visa holders must meet all current state and territory requirements. These cover self-isolation, social distancing, hygiene and appropriate accommodation.

Work safety for farmers and agricultural workers

Agricultural workers often work and eat, and sometimes live, close to each other. This can increase their risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Employers must take care of the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace. This includes putting in place control measures to minimise the spread of COVID-19.

You must put in place these control measures, even if they result in delays to your production.

See how farmers and agricultural workers can minimise the risk from COVID-19 (Safe Work Australia).

Read the National COVID-19 Safe Workplace Principles.

Accessing critical skills

Businesses that need critical skills from overseas may help workers to seek an exemption from current border restrictions to enter Australia.

It is useful to provide detailed information, particularly about the need for the critical skill in Australia.

Further information and the request to travel form is available on the Department of Home Affairs website.

Workers who seek to travel before 14 days quarantine must get a separate exemption from the relevant state/territory authority.

Education and Training

The government has measures in place to support people to start work or upskill in the agriculture industry, or new areas of work.

Agricultural work involves a wide range of skills, from roles like fruit pickers, harvester operators and farm managers. You may not need a qualification to start working in agriculture.

However, there are existing and new education and training opportunities in the agriculture sector during COVID-19.

The Australian Industry and Skills Committee is driving the swift and flexible development of training packages. These are being fast-tracked to upskill people working in essential services. Read about their response.

Higher Education Relief Package

This package supports workers displaced by the COVID-19 crisis. It helps them upskill or retrain for work in other areas, including agriculture. Find out more (Department of Education, Skills and Employment).

Vocational Education and Training (VET)

VET courses cover all aspects of agricultural business. There are accredited and unaccredited courses.

Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes in many states and territories offer courses free of charge (in full or during the COVID-19 pandemic).  Find out more about VET courses on the My Skills website.

Supporting apprentices and trainees

The government will help up to 70,000 small businesses to keep apprentices and trainees employed.

Find out if you are eligible and how to apply (Department of Education, Skills and Employment).

Career Transition Assistance (CTA)

This program for mature-aged workers has been expanded and made available online. Find out how to access this program and if you are eligible (Department of Education, Skills and Employment).

My Skills website

The government has launched an improved and repurposed My Skills website. It focuses on online training for Australians looking to upskill during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new My Skills website offers more ways for Australians to improve their qualifications online. Check out the My Skills website.

Access to export markets

Australian agriculture exporters have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

We are working to ensure our exports can continue.

Read more about exports and COVID-19.

Assistance for airfreight

We are working closely with industry to support the export of produce. The focus is on markets where consumer demand remains strong.

The new International Freight Assistance Mechanism is a $110 million initiative. It will help our agricultural and fisheries export sectors access air freight to get their high-quality produce to overseas markets.

We have had expressions of interest from exporters across Australia to use this mechanism.

Read more about air freight support and how to express your interest.

Exporter loans

Exporters affected by COVID-19 restrictions can now access business-saving loans. To access, you must be:

  • established and previously profitable
  • not able to gain finance from commercial sources.

Export Finance Australia will administer the new $500 million COVID-19 Export Capital Facility

Imports

We rely on imports from around the world. Imports may be disrupted due to transport delays and functioning workplaces. This may affect production and harvests.

We have not put any extra restrictions on imports.

Find out more on imported goods and COVID-19.

Fresh ideas

The agriculture industry has responded to the COVID-19 crisis with innovation and foresight.

In Tasmania, Ian Locke and the Tasmanian Fruit & Vegetable Export Facilitation Group has set up a project called The Other Side.

The project draws together strategies and resources to help horticulture producers to re-enter the export market post COVID-19.

The Other Side

Transcript DOCX [12 KB, 1 page]

Email us your stories of innovation in agriculture during COVID-19 to coronavirus.industry@agriculture.gov.au

Local advice

Check more advice and requirements in your state or territory.

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New South Wales

Read COVID-19 advice on travel and transport in NSW (NSW Government)

See COVID-19 advice for primary industries (Department of Primary Industries)

Victoria

See information from Victoria’s Cross Border Commissioner (Regional Development Victoria)

Keep up to date at  Coronavirus: Important information for Victorians (Victoria Government)

See COVID-19 advice for primary industries (Agriculture Victoria)

Business Victoria Coronavirus Hotline: 13 22 15

Queensland

South Australia

See COVID-19 advice and updates for South Australia (Government of South Australia)

Read COVID-19 advice for primary industries (Department of Primary industries and Regions)

Western Australia

See travel advice during COVID-19 ( WA Department of the Premier and Cabinet)

Read essential information on COVID-19 for community and businesses (West Australian Government)

See COVID-19 advice for primary industries (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development)

Tasmania

See advice and updates, including border restrictions, during COVID-19 (Tasmanian Government)

See advice and support for the agricultural sector during COVID-19 (Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment). 

Northern Territory

Australian Capital Territory

See advice and updates during COVID-19 (ACT Government).

Resources

Updates on Australia’s response to COVID-19:

Business support and advice:

Need help?

We provide support to farmers and farm business in times of hardship.

Find out more at the FarmHub website. It connects Australian farmers to a range of helpful services and support.

Read about support for the commercial fishery industry.

Read more

Media releases:

Meeting summaries:



Last reviewed: 27 May 2020
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