COVID-19 Update

Good morning all, 

Well yesterday marked a milestone in the fight against coronavirus – no new cases were recorded for the first time since February. However this does not mean we are out of the woods yet. Most restrictions will be in place for sometime with health advice advocating for staying the course. Make no mistake though, WA is doing very well compared to almost everywhere else. Pat yourselves on the back for being part of the solution.

We are seeing the first indicator that we are starting to move forward as the WA government try to plot their way out of lockdown. Yesterday they eased the restrictions on alcohol so bottleshops can trade normally. In the next few weeks you can expect other roll backs. Panic buying has stopped but it will take another month or two before stocks will be back to normal which should enable you to do a proper shop – so essential in the regions. The restock is a result of lags in the transport system.

DPIRD Working Holiday Makers

Click here for a DPIRD communique regarding Working Holiday Makers (WHM) and securing labour supply. Included is the latest on agricultural labour and risk minimisation work plans for WHM (in the communique). DPIRD will be working with industry in coming weeks to determine finer details in regards to seasonal agricultural workforce arrangements.

Topics include:
•    Temporary visa changes in place to secure seasonal agricultural labour supply.
•    Western Australian travel restrictions enable movement of agricultural workers with proof of employment.
•    Additional safeguards in place to manage risk and maintain health and safety and support business continuity.
•    Appropriate accommodation arrangements must be in place with adequate social distancing including a declaration that appropriate accommodation arrangements are in place.
•    Businesses employing Working Holiday Makers (WHMs) must prepare a COVID-19 Risk Minimisation Work Plan as part of their occupation health and safety management responsibility.
•    Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) to work with industry in coming weeks to determine finer details.

Inter regional Travel Permits

The Good2Go online inter regional travel permit system from the West Australian Police Force is now live. Known as the g2gpass, applications can be made via the web address https://g2gpass.com.au/ 

Please share the link, a phone app is also available, see screen shot attached to search for download. Click here

Where to from here

Economically it is going to be a long road. On Friday, I sat in on a briefing with the CCIWA chief economist Aaron Morey who has crunched the numbers. He has said that WA faced 13 % unemployment, a figure not seen since the late 70’s. If the JobKeeper wage had not been put in place it would be more like 18%. We however have to pay for all the stimulus and job protection measures somehow so expect tax hikes to appear once this is over.

How does this affect you as a farmer? Well, lets start with the positive. Farmers are being recognised as being essential to both our economy and in our Urban centres. People are finally seeing clearly that Coles and Woolies don’t grow sheep, cows or flour. This is a huge step forward for the industry. I am seeing more and more requests for Australian produce coming into my email from overseas buyers which is also a good indicator that we are going to have demand for future products. 

Don’t forget to talk to your accountant. There is a number of stimulus measures in place that will advantage your business. Click here to go through the details relevant to you.

There is some volatility in the commodity markets. Wool for example has been up and down and will continue to do this until the global community settles. Although some food service businesses have been shut down locally causing many farmers to lose their supply chain we are seeing some businesses pivot to direct to consumer business models. This is an evolving space and we will be watching closely to see what happens. 

There is also a backlash against imported foodstuffs which will be to our advantage if we can capitalise on the opportunity. Many of my discussions  are around value add products and increase in regional manufacturing initiatives. The pandemic has exposed our reliance on other states and countries. We need to take advantage of this and push forward with more food processing happening in WA.

Last week I had a Southwest agricultural forum with 30 farmers working together to define the 3 top things that will benefit them most in the future. As a result there are a number of new initiatives that will have far reaching effects for farmers WA wide. Once each project is more defined I will let you know the outcome. 

If you would like to have your say. Send us an email. We want to hear about how this has impacted you. 

Southern Dirt has passed your messages to government and will continue to do so during this crisis. Send an email to ceo@southerndirt.com.au with any issues or concerns. 

Stay safe!

Tracey Hodgkins
CEO Southern Dirt

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