Ag escapes border closures

Ag escapes border closures

Coronavirus
VITAL ROLE: Crane Livestock's Peter Edmonds and Rusty Crane say the country would stop without freight movements.

VITAL ROLE: Crane Livestock's Peter Edmonds and Rusty Crane say the country would stop without freight movements.

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SA has closed off its borders in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, but those working in agriculture are pleased with the state government's decision to enable the food supply chain to continue operating.

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SA has closed off its borders in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, but those working in agriculture are pleased with the state government's decision to enable the food supply chain to continue operating.

But, there remains some confusion, especially among ag service providers, as to who is exempt from self-isolating for 14 days when they enter the state.

Earlier in the week, SA Police were "inundated" by those living in cross-border communities or those who spend time working in two states, seeking exemptions as an essential traveller.

This has forced them to abandon this permit process.

A SAPOL spokesperson says they are now waving through heavy vehicles carrying essential freight at the 12 border checkpoints, while cases for essential travelling will be determined by the border patrol officers.

Related reading:Farmers' markets remain open, delivery requests increase

The SAPOL spokesperson hoped the process would become smoother in coming days.

"Life isn't easy but we are not about making life hard but slowing the spread of the virus," she said.

Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone says the state government has taken steps to ensure ongoing critical food supplies, agricultural freight, including livestock freight and hay/fodder transports are exempt.

"We are very fortunate that SA produces over five times the volume of food consumed locally and we will continue to support industry to meet the current strong demand for South Australian produce," he said.

"It is why there are exemptions in place to the border restrictions recognising the daily requirements of people who live and work near the border and for people who need to cross the border for essential works such as the conduct of agriculture and supply chains.

Mr Whetstone says PIRSA has been working closely with SAPOL and the provisions have been designed to accommodate agricultural industry requirements.

Currently there is no defined limit on the distance agricultural service providers and transports who meet the exemption categories can enter into the state.

The world still has to eat and that all starts at the farm - whether it is beef, dairy and even grain. - PETER EDMONDS

Crane Livestock Transport director Rusty Crane and logistics manager Peter Edmonds are pleased with the decision and say the country would stop without freight movements.

They say the Naracoorte-based business would have been "shut down" overnight if this was not the case, with up to 20 loads crossing the SA-Vic border each day,

Many of the state's lambs head to Vic processors as well as Vic cattle heading to Teys' Naracoorte abattoir.

Mr Crane says the amount of stock processed interstate is huge and has been even greater since Thomas Foods International's Murray Bridge abattoir burnt down.

"Apart from Mount Compass, Naracoorte, Mount Gambier and Millicent markets which we cart out of to the meatworks here, 99 per cent of what we do is moving across the border," Mr Crane said.

Mr Edmonds says the border is "only a line on the map" for the movement of agricultural commodities like livestock, but also SA milk going to Vic dairy processors, SA grain and hay needed for animals interstate, as well as inputs needed for 2020 cropping season.

Related reading:Why ag needs an 'essential service' declaration

He says stopping these freight movement would "crucify the country".

"The world still has to eat and that all starts at the farm - whether it is beef, dairy and even grain," he said.

Even if it reaches stage two restrictions, Mr Crane would not like to see truck drivers isolated.

"In war time they still had to keep the supply lines open," Mr Crane said.

They both see truck drivers as low risk of spreading the virus but they are taking extra precautions encouraging their drivers to minimise time spent in service stations and to carry as much of their own food from home as possible.

Daniel Feder, who farms on both sides of the border at Serviceton, Vic, and Bordertown, is also hoping it will be nearly business as usual for Sedgmoor Holdings, but will feel more confident when the details are clearer.

He says any restrictions would have a major impact coming into seeding with machinery also needing to be moved between their properties, which are only a few kilometres apart but in two states.

"It wouldn't be a massive number of farmers in our position so it should not be that huge a process to be worked out- even if we can only travel from property to property it would work," he said.

Mr Feder says agriculture must remain a priority during the global pandemic.

"We are lucky in Australia that we do have food security so hopefully we can put the emphasis on it that is needed," he said.

"Health workers are obviously on the front line but people need to eat and need to have access to affordable food."

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