COVID-19 information for horticulture participants
Page last updated 2:30pm, 22 April 2020
Scroll down to find the information you need, or skip straight to what you want:
- Confirmation that agriculture is an essential service
- Continuing to operate in these circumstances for horticulture businesses and workers
- Borders, trade and markets
- Labour updates and resources
- Financial and business assistance
- Safety of horticultural produce
- General COVID-19 information
- Mental wellbeing and support
- Questions and contacts
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment confirms:
“To slow the [COVID-19] outbreak, Australia has introduced restrictions on non-essential gatherings and businesses. Farming, food and beverage production are not impacted. Also exempt are those who support these businesses. These include veterinarians; diesel mechanics; feed and hay production; freight.”
The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment advises:
“All businesses must follow advice from the Department of Health and the relevant state and territory governments. They must:
- Maintain a minimum distance of 1.5m between people
- Provide hand hygiene products and suitable rubbish bins
- Frequently clean and dispose of waste
- Limit the amount of people for essential indoor or outdoor gatherings.
Businesses must be able to demonstrate how they are meeting these requirements. They should also develop continuity plans in case more requirements are imposed.”
***COVID-19 guides are available:***
- PMA A-NZ has produced a Protecting your workforce guide for the fresh produce industry during the COVID-19 situation, with key checklists for operating safely across the farm, packing shed and more: www.pma.com/global-pma/anz/news/2020/covid-19/protecting-your-workforce. This guide offers horticulture-specific advice on top of the COVID-19 and your workforce resource produced by Australian Pork Limited, which includes some great general information all agriculture producers can access. Update: PMA A-NZ has since also produced a more comprehensive resource, Guidelines for the fresh produce industry: COVID-19 and your workforce. The guide and other PMA resources are all housed here.
- The National Farmers' Federation has also released the NFF COVID-19 Workplace Guide here.
- Specifically for fresh produce processing facilities, the ARC Training Centre for Food Safety in the Fresh Produce Industry has produced this guiding article.
- See Safe Work Australia's guide for the industry, Agriculture: Minimising the risk from COVID-19, online here. Safe Work Australia also has a general guide for all Australian workplaces, not just agriculture, here.
- Freshcare has produced this fact sheet with information on hygiene, worker training and more, as well as a health declaration form for those entering farms and facilities.
- Safe Food Queensland offers this checklist for reducing workforce impact from COVID-19.
The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has teamed up with advbisory organisation BDO Australia to deliver a series of webinars to help agriculture businesses minimise the impact of COVID-19. You can register for upcoming webinars and watch recordings of earlier sessions on the BDO website here.
Key tips and advice in addition to the above:
- Any worker that shows signs of illness, has been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, or has recently travelled should not attend work
- You can download and print any of these Department of Health posters for your workplace, so everyone is aware of the protocols and symptoms:
- This step-by-step handwashing guide from Queensland Health is fantastic to include in washroom areas
- The Department of Health’s COVID-19 Information for Employers fact sheet sets out some simple guidelines
- Information on COVID-19 and Australian workplace laws is available from the Fair Work Ombudsman: https://coronavirus.fairwork.gov.au/
- A variety of business information relevant to the pandemic is also available from the Australian Government here
These resources have been produced by individual industries, but may be relevant across horticulture. Look for more resources to be added as they become available.
- APAL has this article for protecting apple and pear workers and businesses
- The Australian Banana Growers' Council has a page on COVID-19 information for growers here
- The Australian Mango Industry Association is compiling information here
- The Australian Mushroom Growers' Association's COVID-10 procedures: Mushroom farms guide is available here
- The Australian Table Grape Association has developed this fact sheet for growers and this poster for table grape operations
- Avocados Australia is bringing information together on its website here
- Berries Australia has developed a COVID-19 berry farm checklist to ensure safe practices are in place, and also has this general list of resources
- Citrus Australia has produced the Guide to COVID-19 in the orchard and packing shed, with the latest version available from its COVID-19 updates page here
- Greenlife Industry Australia is collating materials at www.greenlifeindustry.com.au/Story?Action=View&Story_id=2756
- At the time of writing, border restrictions were in place for some Australian states and territories. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment advises that “states and territories know the importance of maintaining agriculture, food and fibre supply chains and moving goods around Australia… Services that support agriculture are exempt from border restrictions”. Hort Innovation is keeping abreast of this situation.
- The FarmHub website, maintained by the National Farmers’ Federation, is maintaining up-to-date Australian border control information by state and territory here: www.farmhub.org.au/covid-19-border-controls-information/. This includes links to relevant documentation for agribusinesses. You can also find information directly through the state and territory governments:
- Information for exporters relating to COVID-19 is available from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment at www.agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity/coronavirus/export
- For exporters, the government has announced an Air Freight Assistance Mechanism to back the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors. The government has released a fact sheet explaining the initiative here. Growers are invited to have input, including through sharing their freight requirements, at the Have Your Say section of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment website. At the time of writing, there was no closing date on submissions.
Market info and insights
- Austrade is posting insights to their website at www.austrade.gov.au/news/news/novel-coronavirus
- Harvest to Home - a collaboration between Hort Innovation and Nielsen that delivers consumer behavioural data and insights relating to horticultural commodities - is providing COVID-19 fresh produce updates at the top of its webpage here.
- More generally, Nielsen is tracking the impact of COVID-19 and sharing data and insights here.
- Euromonitor has a price and availability tracker dashboard featuring ecommerce information across 40 countries, including for fresh food categories such as vegetables.
- On Saturday 4 April, the government announced temporary changes to visa arrangements that will help horticulture growers access the workforce needed on farm. More information can be found in this announcement from the Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud and there is information for businesses that employ visa holders available from the Department of Home Affairs here. The arrangements require working holidaymakers and seasonal workers to self-isolate for 14 days before moving between regions.
- The federal and state governments are currently considering other ways to meet the ongoing workforce needs of the horticulture sector in particular. Growers should look out for opportunities to advise of their current needs, whether that is through your peak industry body or other relevant authority.
For businesses taking on new workers, the below resources may assist in addition to the COVID-19 workforce guides linked to further up the page. More will be added as they come to light.
- Online induction for new workers in the vegetable industry – this VegPRO VegInductions course was produced through the Hort Innovation Vegetable Fund
- Work health and safety training videos for the vegetable industry
- Handling fresh produce safely (general) – another online training resources through Hort Innovation’s VegPRO program
- Visit the FarmHub website for an overview of assistance available through federal, state and territory avenues: www.farmhub.org.au/covid-19-assistance-and-support/
- The WA Small Business Development Corporation has some handy articles, including:
- The government’s Rural Financial Counselling Service program is a free, confidential service that’s available to farmers that are experiencing or are at risk of financial hardship. You can learn more at www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/drought/assistance/rural-financial-counselling-service or call 1800 686 175 to be referred to your nearest office. A rural financial counsellor can help you work through and understand your current financial situation, including the implications of the current situation, and connect you with relevant professional services and assistance schemes. They can also help you apply directly for the Farm Household Allowance.
On Sunday 29 March, Hort Innovation issued a joint media release with Nutrition Australia, CSIRO and AUSVEG regarding the safety of fresh horticultural produce, which can be viewed here: www.horticulture.com.au/hort-innovation/news-events/covid-19-outbreak. A video with Hort Innovation R&D Manager and Accredited Practising Dietitian Jemma O'Hanlon was also shared in Hort Innovation's social media channels, promoting the safety and health benefits of fresh fruits, veggies and nuts: www.facebook.com/hortinnovation/videos/515486769111827/.
Importantly, to date there is no evidence that the novel coronavirus can be transmitted through food. Food Standards Australia New Zealand has this advice which reports that “so far there is no evidence that people have become infected by swallowing the virus in or on food or drink”.
The NSW Food Authority has prepared this information for food-related businesses in relation to COVID-19: www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/help/covid-19-advice-for-businesses.
- Get the basics on the novel coronavirus in this quick fact sheet from the Department of Health
- Be sure to follow all national and state requirements regarding social distancing and home isolation
- Be alert for the symptoms of the illness, which include:
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Use the HealthDirect online symptom checker if you’re not sure: www.healthdirect.gov.au/symptom-checker/tool/basic-details. You can also use the Department of Health’s chart for telling novel coronavirus from other illnesses at www.health.gov.au/resources/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-identifying-the-symptoms.
- Call the National Coronavirus Helpline for advice on 1800 020 080 if you’d like to talk to someone about your symptoms or, if you need to seek medical advice, be sure to call the doctor or hospital before attending in person
- If you’re experiencing a medical emergency including difficulty breathing or turning blue, call triple zero (000)
- The Department of Health’s COVID-19 health alert page offers daily updates on the status of Australia’s COVID-19 situation and response at www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-current-situation-and-case-numbers
- The Department of Health also has 30+ clear fact sheets on COVID-19, available from www.health.gov.au/resources/collections/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-resources
It’s important we all look after ourselves during this strange and potentially very stressful time.
- The Head to Health website (www.headtohealth.gov.au) is a national initiative with specific information on COVID-19 support
- The World Health Organization has this fact sheet on coping with stress during the COVID-19 outbreak and this separate resource for helping children cope with the situation
- The FarmHub website has details, links and phone numbers for a range of mental health services, including those specific to rural areas, at www.farmhub.org.au/mental-health
If you are thinking about suicide, for 24/7 support call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. If your life is in danger, call 000.
Growers and other horticulture participants should feel free to reach out to their Hort Innovation Industry Strategic Partner for information about the company's actions and activities for their industry during this national health crisis, and in general. The phone and email details for the partner for your industry can be found on our contacts page here.
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