Australian agribusiness rising to the COVID challenge

Although Australian farmers have done more than their share of heavy lifting in responding to and managing the impact of the COVID pandemic, there is still more that they can do to advance business growth in the current conditions.

Following on from a prolonged drought and devastating bushfires, Australia’s agricultural community now faces new challenges from COVID: changes in local demand, domestic transport difficulties, labour shortages, and problems with import and export supply chains.

How Australian agribusiness has risen to the COVID challenge

Australia has done a reasonable job of containing COVID-19 infections by mandating lockdowns and instituting border closures, but still faces the dire national and international economic impact of the pandemic. Agribusiness Australia has proved its resilience by responding in several ways, including:

  • Employing innovative technology solutions like drones and agricultural machine GPS guidance system
  • Finding alternative markets, such as food-box and meal delivery companies rather than restaurants, and farmgate sales with COVID-safe drive-through options
  • Mitigating the labour shortage, by recruiting and retraining unemployed city dwellers, using methods such as the Pilots4Harvest2020 Facebook page to help out-of-work airline pilots redirect their skills to driving heavy vehicles and harvesters
  • Preparing COVID-safe work plans to reduce transmission risk and manage the movement of workers
  • Supporting moves to secure the agricultural supply chain via streamlined border checkpoints, quarantining, testing and permits.

Action plans for Australian farmers to sustain and build on agribusiness growth.

Given that so much has been accomplished in the face of adversity, imagine how much more business growth could be achieved with targeted government investment, legislation initiatives, and agribusiness strategic planning.

All three of these options are available right now.

1. Targeted government investment

Agriculture contributes about $70 billion annually to the Australian economy and plays an important part in our food safety as an island nation. The government’s Ag2030 target aims to grow this to $100 billion by 2030, and federal and state governments have increased their investment in the agricultural sector as a result:

  • Around $3 billion invested in Delivering Ag2030
  • $780 million to fund the International Freight Assistance Mechanism to maintain time-sensitive exports
  • Business support grants during COVID available in most states and territories
  • Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses in agriculture provided free by many states and territories during the pandemic.

2. Government legislation initiatives

Australian governments are throwing more than money at agriculture’s COVID challenges. New laws have been implemented (or planned) to cover:

  • Agricultural Worker Visa, to provide farms, fisheries and forestry with the overseas labour they need
  • Simplified Trade System to reduce regulatory costs and facilitate trade
  • Busting Congestion for Agricultural Exporters to modernise and streamline Australia’s export system
  • Free Trade Agreement Negotiations with the EU and UK
  • Dairy Export Assurance Reforms Project, to reduce red tape and streamline audit arrangements
  • Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Package and Australian Farm Biodiversity Certification Scheme, to help farmers protect biodiversity
  • National Soil Strategy and National Soil Monitoring and Incentives Pilot Program, to value, manage and improve soil
  • Improving the Agricultural Workforce via AgATTRACT, AgCAREERSTART, AgFAIR and AgMOVE.

3. Agribusiness strategic planning

Individual agribusiness growth also requires the proactive and forward-thinking approach encapsulated in strategic planning. Identify future growth opportunities and help prepare for climate change, biosecurity risks, and emerging opportunities such as carbon farming.

The three-stage process involves Factor Analysis, Strategy Analysis, and Implementation and Control:

  • Factor Analysis. Personal and business goals, competitor and industry trends, strengths and weaknesses
  • Strategy Analysis. Business direction and planning, systems and procedures, capability gaps, competitive ability, investment sources
  • Implementation and Control. Action plans and progress monitoring.

How can we help?

Would you like to know more about these topics? Bentleys has an expert team of agribusiness advisors ready to help you take the next step in growing your farming enterprise. Contact your local Bentleys advisor today to find out how we can support you.

Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and should not be relied on as advice. It does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. You need to consider your financial situation and needs and seek professional advice before making any decisions based on this information.

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