OFTEN the voice of reason where government policy impacts agriculture, Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) vice president Emma Germano, hopes government has a plan and executes it well to ensure food security as the Victorian border is set to be closed tonight.
Ms Germano, who operates a vegetable-growing business with her family north of Mirboo North said an emphasis needed to be on getting farm produce to market.
“We understand the need for these measures, but we need to ensure food security for our producers and consumers,” Ms Germano said on ABC Country Hour today.
An additional 191 positive cases were reported in Victoria today, on top of yesterday’s 127.
But Ms Germano said one of the supply sectors to be prioritised was the transport operators.
“We can’t have the situation where trucks are being held up for two hours at the border, for example.”
“I hope there is a plan and they execute it well,” Ms Germano said.
Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes, who is also the Member for Northern Victoria, acknowledged there would be difficulties in the first 72 hours, especially at the main crossing points at Yarrawonga and Wodonga.
“We know border closures will cause impacts and I have been speaking with the NSW Agriculture Minister about addressing these issues as soon as they arise.
“Obviously there are a lot of reasons to cross the border and my job is to work through those.”
Minister Symes said she wasn’t so concerned about getting the best protocols in place to get farm produce moving in a timely manner as the potential for that produce to get caught up in gridlocks, especially at the main crossing points.
She acknowledged that animal welfare was one of the main issues where stock was being transported across the border.
She said such methods as allowing a “wave through” for agricultural produce trucks clearly labelled might be one of the ways to deal with it.
There will be a joint statement by NSW and Victorian agriculture ministers later in the day.
But Ms Germano said the issue of hold-ups at the border was exactly the issue that could interrupt food supply.
“As soon as you have farmers reacting to reports of problems, even if those problems may be perceived, they will be making decisions about whether or not to sell product,” Ms Germano said.
Mark King, Chairman of Dried Fruits Australia, a third generation dried fruit grower at Pomona north of Wentworth said there was a simple solution.
“Everyone has got a licence. It should be pretty obvious that someone living in Wentworth is going into Mildura. Surely, they should be able to travel within Sunraysia to get the job done,” he said.
At the other end of the State, it’s “business as usual” at the moment according to Livestock Manager for Elders Bairnsdale, Morgan Davies.
“We’re an essential service so it’s going to be a matter of livestock transport operators getting their papers before they can move stock to Bairnsdale and down to Leongatha.
“The only difference is that the vendors from across the border aren’t going to be able to come in and see their cattle sold.
“It’s a moveable feast as you know but at the moment it’s business as usual.”
He said the weaner season was well and truly over and it was generally the low season for cattle supply and would continue to be that way until the new season started up again around October.
If there was a least-impact time to close borders, it was probably now.
That’s not to say there won’t be inconvenience for farmers and others living along the border in East Gippsland.