COVID-19 likely to impact on harvest labour and deliveries

Navigating through a COVID-19 harvest

Cropping
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In wake of pandemic, AWB advises grain growers to plan ahead for harvest labour and deliveries.

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It will be important to get plans in place for grain deliveries and marketing this harvest.

It will be important to get plans in place for grain deliveries and marketing this harvest.

As Australian farmers prepare for another harvest, this one has a feel of something different about it as the world - and Australia - grapples with a global pandemic.

After it appeared Australia had things under control, recent virus surges have again put the agricultural industry (and most other industries) deep into uncharted waters.

Victoria has declared a state of disaster and NSW and Queensland are dealing with clusters and watching their own numbers with nervousness.

With this year's crop progressing along well in many parts - and the expectation grain will be heading to port in a big way - preparation for harvest logistics will be even more important than ever.

After the first global lockdowns, markets watched as food and energy pricing saw massive demand reduction as a result of people not traveling or eating out.

Some of this demand showed signs of recovery. But with the current resurgence in cases domestically and internationally - and the reinstated workplace and industry shutdowns - the demand destruction for some commodities will not be recovering anytime soon.

Australia is optimistic about the prospects of a bumper season for grain production and the expectation is this will mean increased exports.

With uncertainty about demand, and increased local supply, this may not bode well for commodity markets heading into harvest.

When you spend close to the whole year growing the crop, harvest planning and logistics can be the icing on the cake - if you can get it right.

This year will be no different, and will require extra attention - with lockdowns, driving permits and social distancing probably now part of the equation.

For cities and states that are in lockdown, this puts a heightened risk on travelling additional distances - especially heading into dense populations.

As we approach the 2020-21 harvest, heading to your local bulk handler might be the best option this season. Current market pricing confirms an appetite for premium rail sites.

Staying in your own community for harvest delivery may be the best plan if tighter restrictions continue.

Contactless delivery of grain is now an option available at some delivery sites. This ensures staff and truck drivers can remain safely socially distanced.

For the upcoming harvest, drivers can submit a delivery ticket into AWB GrainFlow site via the Grower Delivery App for a more contactless delivery - by allowing testing and weighing of grain to be completed with drivers staying in their truck.

Further to the above, the agricultural community has already expressed concerns about getting labour - with backpackers not able to enter the country.

Harvest logistics at border crossings for a number of states will pose an issue, with permits required to cross borders and potential wait times that need to be considered during harvest.

For a harvest that some growers have waited years for, its feel like this one will be like no other.

In any good business there has always been a good plan.

Harvest 2020-21 will be no different, except it may require a little more thought than just dusting-off last year's plan - as the one thing that is for certain is that this virus will continue to throw curve-balls at us all.

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