As the pandemic enters its third year we are seeing some clear themes emerge, and one of them is the need to reinforce the resilience of our farmers.
Throughout the pandemic our farmers have grown the food and fibre that has kept us going, and we need to make sure the settings are in place to support those efforts going forward.
The recent images of supermarket shelves stripped bare is only half of the story when it comes to our food supply, but it's seized the attention of our decision-makers. Obviously something is going wrong when there's fruit and veg at the wholesale markets but not the supermarkets, and we need to be proactive in securing our fresh food supply.
If farmers are going to continue to find ways to keep putting food on Aussie plates they're going to need support from government. Top of the list is prioritised access to Rapid Antigen Tests for workers in the food supply chain through existing networks like pharmacies or local health districts. We also need financial assistance to deploy those RATs for free or at a heavily-subsidised rate so there's no disincentive to take a test.
From a business perspective, governments need to provide guidance in the form of a risk assessment matrix so there's certainty around keeping the supply chain moving, so farmers can work out just what a safe outdoor working environment is for close contacts.
Lastly, we need clarity on just who is liable for confirming RAT results - businesses or individuals or some other body.
There is a lot of confusion and uncertainty about, and the trick now will be making sure we can weather the latest outbreak safely, keeping bellies full while making a living and supporting our farmers, workers and communities.
Because while the images of stripped supermarket shelves suggest otherwise, the truth is that we do have plenty of food in the supply chain. The challenge will be securing that supply into the future.
- James Jackson, NSW Farmers president
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