$110m government initiative to secure freight access for Australia’s premium food exporters

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in major air-freight shortages, disrupting supply chains worldwide. An $110 million initiative introduced by the federal government in late March 2020 aims to bolster Australia’s agricultural and fisheries sector by enabling high-quality produce to be air-freighted into key overseas markets.

Initially, the International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) will focus on key markets including China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UAE, and four departure hubs: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

It will be overseen by Michael Byrne, newly appointed International Freight Coordinator General, who’ll work with Austrade to organise food-freight flights with exporters, airlines, freight forwarders and industry bodies.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the initiative would focus on high-demand agricultural and fisheries exports, ensuring farmers “can get more of their high-quality product into overseas markets” and protecting regional jobs.

Another $10 million or so in Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) levies will be waived for all Commonwealth fishers for the remainder of 2020.

“The fishing industry was one of the first hit when access to China was cut off in January,” said Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonno Duniam. “Unlocking key international markets will get thousands of fishers, divers, deckhands and processors back on the job, and the levy relief will help to keep fishers financially afloat [and] ensure that the sector can build a bridge to recovery.”

The initiative is part of the government’s $1 billion Relief and Recovery Fund to support regions, communities and industry sectors disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

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Source: COVID-19: $110 million initiative securing freight access for Australian agricultural and fisheries exporters I Regional Development Australia, Riverina