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Australian Organic call for food supply chain to be listed as essential

Media Release

23 March, 2020

Australian Organic stands with National Farmers’ Federation urgent call for food supply chain to be listed as an essential service amid new coronavirus measures

The nation’s leading organic industry body, Australian Organic, is joining the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) in making an urgent call for agriculture and the food supply chain to be deemed an essential service, for the purpose of the COVID-19 response.

“As a member of the NFF, we have been in weekly meetings with them to support focus in the agricultural area, and now more than ever given the current crisis, will continue to back them,” said Australian Organic CEO Niki Ford.

“The NFF is committed to ensuring modern farming is not only viable and sustainable but continues its vital and growing contribution to the nation despite any challenging circumstances. The organic agricultural sector makes up a significant portion of the industry, and we will be endeavouring to make sure the needs of organic growers are met during these difficult times.”

The 2019 Australian Organic Market Report reveals that the current area of land under certified organic management in Australia is over 35million hectares (around 9.6 per cent of farmland) – more than half of all certified land area on the earth. There are currently more than 2,000 certified organic primary producers in Australia including farmers, graziers, apiarists and wild harvesters.

Vegetable production dominates in the fruit, vegetable and nut sector, with three quarters of the sector value, beef dominates in the meat sector with around 87 per cent of value, lamb comprises the bulk of the remaining 13 per cent in addition to organic pork, goat and aquaculture. Poultry products are fairly evenly weighted between eggs and poultry meat in terms of value.

NFF President Fiona Simson said her organisation had been in discussions, as recently as yesterday afternoon with the Government in regards to the critical importance of a reliable food supply chain.

“The NFF has been assured that agriculture and the food supply chain will not be interrupted, despite the closure of travel between some states,” said Ms Simson. “This is in line with the Prime Minister’s commitment to prioritising lives and livelihoods.

“The continued provision of quality fresh produce is paramount to safeguarding the wellbeing and health of the nation. Our state farming member organisations have been having similar conversations with their state governments.”

Ms Simson said the confirmation of agriculture as an essential service, by the states and the Commonwealth as a collective, would guarantee measures to control the spread of COVID-19 did not inadvertently obstruct food production and supply.

“The agriculture industry takes human health seriously and is taking appropriate measures to ensure this is a priority,” she said. “That being said, the transport of produce from farm to market must be able to happen unobstructed – this includes across state borders. Likewise, for the logistics that ensure the flow of essential agricultural inputs such as fertiliser and crop protection products.”

Ms Simson said discussions also remain active about how to protect the workforce of key facilities such as abattoirs, should there be a positive COVID-19 test.

“We understand a list of essential services may be developed by states. It is absolutely critical that there is consistency across states in the recognition of the importance of food production and the supply chain.

“In our discussions with Government, the NFF has reiterated the farm sector’s commitment to playing its vital role in ensuring Australians continue to have access to the quality, fresh groceries they depend on in these uncertain and challenging times,” Ms Simson said.

Source: Australian Organic.

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