I DON'T envy the government's role of deciding what's an essential service and what's not, as the coronavirus crisis gets worse and more and more businesses across the country are forced to close in an effort to stop its spread.
I might be biased, but I think there's one easy decision among the mix. Agriculture must be considered essential - how could it be viewed any other way? Ag is responsible for producing the food that sustains us, and the fibre we clothe ourselves with.
At some point in the future, this unpredictable virus might have the ultimate say.
But for now, it's important we do all we can to keep our ag supply chains open.
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Our lives will look very different if farmers cannot operate. Take the most important meal of the day, for example. We could kiss goodbye eggs for breakfast and be forced to eat imported bacon (no thanks). We might have to eat our Weet Bix dry, as there'd be no milk. Let's not forget bread, yoghurt, fruit, rolled oats or other cereals - none of these would exist without the work of a farmer.
I could go on, but I'd just leave you all hungry and no one needs an extra trip to the supermarket at the moment.
It's essential our agricultural supply pipelines are kept as open and free-flowing as possible - as long as it's safe to do so.
This isn't just about helping us get through the coronavirus crisis - there's more at stake. When we get out the other side of this pandemic, we need to make sure our food producers are still in business.
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I haven't seen a packet of San Remo pasta at my local supermarket for at least a fortnight. People are buying these great SA products as soon as they hit the shelves.
If our agricultural suppliers were forced to shut down and our durum growers couldn't get what they needed to sow this year's crops, how would we keep the shelves full when the panic passes?
The situation facing agriculture could change at any minute - we've seen it happen to many other sectors. On New Year's Eve, who of us could have predicted that less than three months later, we wouldn't be able to go to the pub, there'd be no footy and finding toilet paper would become 2020's equivalent of winning the lotto?
Ag is an absolutely essential service in my opinion. The industry must be able to keep operating. But let's not think that we'll be immune to the challenges faced by other sectors if we're not careful and smart about how we operate.
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