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The impacts to fresh produce disrupting Australian carriers

Australia’s fruit and vegetables are some of the freshest in the world and thanks to popular food trends such as avocado toast and acai bowls, fruit and vegetables are in high demand. However, this coming season is set to be very different due to the pandemic’s flow on effects now impacting growers and ultimately the supply chain.

Our National Manager for Marine Claims, Mike Sullivan and National Product Manager, David Brando explain how COVID-19 is causing further disruption to the Marine industry and Australia’s carriers.

“At this time of year Queensland alone would host around 135,000 pickers, yet as those who usually pick the produce – such as backpackers, have returned home overseas. Now there is only about 20,000 available,” says Mike.

“While the simple fix might be to hire more locals, given the fact that it is hard labour on minimum wage, many find the job unsustainable and therefore the fruit goes unpicked, drops on its own and rots, causing big headaches for producers, buyers, sellers, and exporters,” he adds.

Mango farmers have warned they will not be able to harvest this season’s crop without workers from overseas.

The Federal Government’s is proposing a pilot program to allow fruit pickers from Vanuatu to travel to the Northern Territory for the first of the season harvests.

The pilot program would allow up to 200 workers to travel from Vanuatu to harvest mangoes in the Northern Territory and proposes travel to be by a chartered flight to Darwin.

Like a number of its Pacific neighbours, Vanuatu has not reported any cases of coronavirus to date.

A final decision is yet to be made but if this pilot program does not go ahead for the Northern Territory then the coming season for Queensland farmers looks bleak.

Naturally, fruit and vegetable prices are set to skyrocket and perhaps one of the biggest challenges we face in the industry is the expected reduction in freight tasks through the supply chain, leaving less trips for transporters and impacting exports.

“While it might appear to be a gloomy situation, it isn’t unlike situations we’ve weathered before such as the North Queensland floods and cyclones or droughts around the country.

“The strict, yet necessary, border restrictions are also slowing freight movement down, so our supply chain is experiencing somewhat of a buffer when trying to get goods from one destination to another, and the added stress of carrying temperature controlled goods and fresh produce being in limited and expensive supply, is less than favourable,” notes David.

“Families will continue to make dinner, café’s will continue to serve brunch and restaurants will continue to cook meals, so inevitably, our carriers will continue to transport fresh produce across the country whatever the cost or quantity,” says Mike.

“While a pandemic has never been experienced here before, our industry is robust and equipped to deal with these sort of problems; resilience is key in this challenging period.

“Our Marine Protect team are working with our carrier customers to keep them moving, because without them Australia stops,” says David.

Contact your local NTI representative or call our expert marine team on 1800 684 669 to discuss coverage for carriers or to lodge a claim.

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