What Qld border closure means for agriculture

Queensland border closure could take a toll on agriculture industry

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Breeders banned from bull sales outside the "border bubble" are frustrated that purchasing of sires is not being recognised as an essential service, and have little chance of a special permit being granted. File photo from 2019.

Breeders banned from bull sales outside the "border bubble" are frustrated that purchasing of sires is not being recognised as an essential service, and have little chance of a special permit being granted. File photo from 2019.

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Essential agriculture has been dealt a blow with COVID-19 border closures.

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Regional NSW is now lumped with Sydney as a coronavirus hotspot by the Queensland government and the impact on "essential" agriculture is taking its toll.

During previous Queensland border closures those travelling from the Maroon state could apply for short term cross community access to perform essential agribusiness work including attend bull sales.

But when restrictions were reinstated last Saturday morning, agricultural workers were no longer on the list of essential workers. New South Welshmen were banned from entering the state while any Queensland residents who travel to NSW and wish to return home will be forced to pay for 14-day hotel quarantine.

Exemptions to border and quarantine directions can be applied for via the Queensland government website, however, "a pass does not guarantee entry into Queensland as this is determined by an emergency officer at the border checkpoint", it says.

The website also said the only people who could enter Queensland by road were truck drivers, workers related to the transport of freight and logistics, people performing essential activities and border zone residents.

NSW Agricultural Minister Adam Marshall said he had campaigned to soften the impact of the Queensland restrictions, but to no avail.

He said it was clear that the actions of the Queensland Government would needlessly negatively impact NSW farmers, who were fast approaching harvest and were riding on getting an income this year following prolonged years of drought.

"NSW is not Victoria, and to declare the entire state a hotspot flies in the face of all the health advice," Mr Marshall said.

"The border regions, including the local government areas which neighbour Queensland, have not had a single coronavirus case for almost four months, and some areas have had none.

"The decision seems rushed ... and the cost is going to be borne by us the in the bush, on both sides of the border."

Mr Marshall said he had written to the Queensland premier and spoken to his agricultural counterpart to raise such concerns and to propose a sensible solution to remove postcodes and instead define the border zone around local government areas, which better reflected communities of interest and genuine border regions.

Meanwhile, as the northern bull selling season continues, many NSW studs that sell at Queensland multi-vendor bull sales have been left in the dark.

Droughtmaster Stud Breeders' Society president Todd Heyman penned a letter to the Queensland premier, prime minister and the federal minister for agriculture calling for a more pragmatic option for cross-border movement for agricultural producers.

"We are world renowned for our biosecurity measures we employ across the cattle industry," he told The Land.

"We trace our product from paddock to plate, surely we can come up with a solution for a more practical cross border movement."

A number of NSW Droughtmaster studs were preparing to offer bulls at the Roma Droughtmaster sale in October, while other breeds would also have NSW vendors wanting to travel north for other big sales.

In the letter Mr Heyman said the restrictions limited the ability of interstate vendors to present cattle and buyers to properly inspect their prospective purchases.

Queensland cattle breeder and feeder Noel Cook, Kindon Station, Goondiwindi, saw the inability to view potential sires as a direct contradiction to the exemption of essential services, such as food production.

A noticeable figure on the northern NSW bull sale scene recently was Kevin Graham of Kevin Graham Consulting, Chapel Hill, Qld, who was paying on average up to $22,000 for some of his Queensland client's orders.

Mr Graham had an ongoing large order from multiple Maroon-based clients but his physical presence will be missed after racing back over the border.

With further interest from bull buyers to attend Angus sales, some this week, he was now working on plan B and C.

"At this stage I'm wanting to go to a couple of sales through the month and it appears it's going to be very unlikely, which will be a great disappoint to my clients and myself because you only get this time of year to go and purchase bulls for your client so they can breed the next crop of calves," he said.

"I have spoken to a couple of studmasters to see if there is something we might be able to do over the phone."

He believed there should be exemptions for agents and consultants of the agricultural industry so they could continue to perform their work.

"We are not going to attend nightclubs in the heart of Sydney," he said.

"The sales are mostly in the western areas and I should imagine there has been no coronavirus outbreaks in those cases."

Isolation left keen bidders at Tuesday's Te Mania bull sale at Walgett no choice but to let AuctionsPlus make the connection, with half the lots knocked down to online bidders.

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