While airfreight export options direct out of SA were completely shut down when COVID-19 first gripped the nation, the success of weekly flights out of Adelaide - one each with Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific - are helping SA producers regain market access to overseas destinations.
Both deals have been funded by the federal government's International Freight Assistance Mechanism, which recently received a $240-million funding boost, taking the total package to $350m.
The Singapore Airlines deal has been extended to a confirmed 12-week period, flying direct to Singapore until the end of July, while the six-week Cathay Pacific deal, flying direct to Hong Kong, is also nearly wrapped up.
The planes are carrying no passengers, and each have about a 40-tonne capacity.
Trade and Investment Minister David Ridgway said IFAM support for the airfreight deals would likely be extended, if the planes could continue to be filled.
"We were a little uncertain to start with, but SA producers have definitely supported these deals, the planes have been filled or almost filled every week, and we've had great reports from producers who have been very happy to get market access again," he said.
Mr Ridgway said the makeup of produce on the flights would likely vary through the year, if the deals were to be extended, but demand would likely be constant.
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"While we've got some seafood, abalone and lobsters at this time of year, we'll have fresh stonefruit coming out of the Riverland later in the year, so the actual make up of the products we carry will be different as we move through seasons," he said.
Many producers have successfully moved goods further abroad than just Singapore and Hong Kong, with products loaded onto connecting flights into Vietnam, China, Japan and other Asian destinations. Work is also under way to try to move some seafood products into Europe.
Mr Ridgway said if producer demand was there, airfreight deals to other locations would also be put forward, to be funded by IFAM.
Producers looking for assistance can apply for the seventh round of SA Export Accelerator grants, which opened on Tuesday and close on August 14.
This round of funding has a focus on airfreight, with Mr Ridgway saying shipping exports out of Adelaide had been largely uninterrupted by COVID-19.
Vegetable growers welcome IFAM funding boost
AUSVEG has welcomed the government's announcement to extend the IFAM, which will allow Australia's vegetable grower exporters to continue to supply important export markets to meet the demand for high-quality fresh vegetables.
The assistance package has been important to help exporters get their high-quality produce into key overseas markets, with return flights bringing back vital medical supplies, medicines and equipment critical to the ongoing health response.
AUSVEG national manager - export development Michael Coote said the announcement of the extension was timely given that exporting vegetable growers were seeking clarity and certainty around the assistance package, which was due to run out in July.
"The extension of the mechanism will be welcome news for vegetable grower exporters who may have been uncertain about their ability to continue to service their international customers during the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.
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"Australian vegetables have a strong reputation for quality and reliability in key export markets, so it is critical that we are able to continue to export our fresh produce and that vegetable growers have a commercially-viable avenue to reach these markets.
"Demand has continued to be strong for Australian fresh vegetables in international markets, with enquiries still coming in from a range of key importers. While demand has been high, exports of fresh vegetables have been affected by the reduction in the number of commercial passenger flights, which many growers use to export their fresh, perishable products to key Asian and Middle Eastern markets."
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