COVID-19 sugarcane industry updates

The impact of the COVID-19 virus is being felt across the sugar industry as it is in our communities and around the world. CANEGROWERS will continue to serve sugarcane growers through these enormously volatile times.


Scroll down for news and information on:

This page is being updated as more information becomes available.
If
you can't find what you're looking for, email CANEGROWERS info@canegrowers.com.au

 

Health and safety

CANEGROWERS has produced a two-page Sugarcane Farm COVID-19 Guide which is available for download here or by clicking the image. It contains information on minimising the risk to people on your farm and what to do if someone becomes ill.

Members of CANEGROWERS Herbert River can collect a laminated Checklist and sticker from the Mitre 10 store in Ingham from Wednesday 6 May.

Queensland Health requires a Workplace Health Management Plan to be submitted if any staff or contractors are employed from interstate OR are Queensland residents not staying at their permanent place of residence while they work. It is not mandatory to have a Health Plan if you only employ staff and contractors who live locally and go home after work but it is recommended that you do so to satisfy WH&S obligations. A template for a Health Plan including instructions on lodging it is available as a Word document to download here.


Other information and resources to help farms comply with measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 are here:

Sugar Research Australia has produced a farm hygiene video. SRA's Leader for Disease Management Dr Rob Magerey outlines cleaning measures for surfaces incorporating advice from the World Health Organisation. Watch the video on YouTube here https://youtu.be/ef44SO5c0Ag


Workforce management

 

Do you need farm labour now or in the near future and your usual pattern of hiring is disrupted?
These suggestions may help:

 

Are you employing someone who needs to travel from interstate?
There are different conditions depending on which borders a worker may need to cross to get to your farm. Bans on travel from COVID-19 hotspots and quarantine periods may apply. The NFF website contains the information about all COVID-19 border controls  https://farmhub.org.au/covid-19-border-controls-information/

Requirements to enter Queensland: 

  1. Only specialist workers from essential industries are allowed entry and specific provisions apply to anyone coming from a designated COVID-19 hotspot. A worker will need to check their eligibility for and apply for a Queensland Entry pass here https://www.qld.gov.au/border-pass
  2. A worker will need to carry proof (such as a letter) that they are travelling directly to a job.
  3. Employers must have a COVID-19 Health Plan in place. The Word document template is available for download here (please note: in this instance FIFO includes agricultural workers who are employed for a specific period and usually live elsewhere).

To learn more about Health Management Plans, the Department of Agriculture has recorded a podcast which can be found here https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/news-media/podcasts/covid-safe-farms

 


Business and farm management

 

The Queensland Government has a range of assistance measures including payroll tax and power bill relief which may be relevant for farm businesses. Information is available on the Business Queensland website: https://www.business.qld.gov.au/

Ergon is crediting the $500 relief payment to all business electricity accounts with eligible usage less than 100MWh. If a farm pump is linked to a household account, the household $200 credit will apply and growers will have to have the pump moved to a business account to capture the full benefit. See the FAQs on the Ergon website.

 

We need to work on the farm so can our children go to school?
While the advice is to keep children at home to learn for the start of Term 2 until 22 May, Education Queensland says on its website there are exceptions including, "Children of essential workers on days when they are not able to be supervised at home and no other arrangements can be made. Essential worker means any worker who must continue to attend their workplace for essential business during this time." Read more on the EQ website

 

The Federal Government has implemented an economic stimulus package aimed at cushioning the impact of COVID-19 with measures are targeted at supporting casual workers, sole-traders, retirees and those on income support, and at enabling small businesses to retain employees and to stay in business. Information and supporting fact sheets are online: https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/businesses

The National Farmers' Federation has included information on the measures relevant to farmers on its COVID-19 information page: https://farmhub.org.au/covid-19-key-information-and-updates/

 

JobKeeper is a scheme announced by the Federal Government which offers subsidies to help employers pay their workers even though COVID-19 has caused a downturn in turnover. There may be some farming businesses which would benefit from accessing this assistance. The scheme is being administered by the Tax Office which has resources available online https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/jobkeeper and a fact sheet here. You could also talk to your accountant about its suitability for your business.

 

WEBINARS for businesses in agriculture
BDO, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, is delivering a series of webinars  to provide support, help minimise the impact and lead discussions on the key issues around the COVID-19 response. The whole series is here https://www.bdo.com.au/en-au/dafwebinarseries

Here are the links to watch particular episodes:
Supporting Agriculture with business continuity planning & managing supply chain disruption https://youtu.be/KxMIGfi8ZAA
Practical approaches and strategies to documenting your business continuity planning https://youtu.be/_MljXRt7PMg
Evaluating and refining your plan (including a look at WH&S strategies and the Qld Health Plan checklist) https://youtu.be/t7EOMD75c3Q

 


Services and Programs

CANEGROWERS is representing the industry on Queensland State Disaster Management committees and working groups that meet at least weekly to consider supply chain, workplace health and safety, workforce availability and business continuity impacts. We are also meeting at least weekly with the National Farmers' Federation and the Federal Agriculture Minister to talk about the national policy response.

 

CANEGROWERS has convened an Australian sugar industry working group to assess and plan for the short, medium and long term impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. It brings together on regular teleconferences, grower representatives with people from the mills, marketers and port facilities to work through possible scenarios and ensure there is cooperation at every level. Read the full media release here

 

While the situation is constantly changing, please be assured that CANEGROWERS is continuing, as always, to work on your behalf. Your CANEGROWERS staff will be supporting sugarcane growers through this time of upheaval but it has become necessary to change some of the ways in which we operate.

Most of these changes have been implemented in order for us to maintain the health and wellbeing of our staff and to ensure we do our bit to reduce the spread of the virus. In line with State and Federal Government requirements:

  • All domestic and international travel has ceased.
  • All Queensland Cane Growers Organisation (CANEGROWERS) face to face meetings have regrettably stopped until further notice. The Brisbane office remains open but with most staff working off site.
  • With telephones, email and video link technology CANEGROWERS staff will remain in touch with members, district offices and the wider industry.
  • Each district office is making its own decision around local operations as the need arises.

If you are a CANEGROWERS member and are not recieving Grower Updates by email from CEO Dan Galligan please email us at info@canegrowers.com.au

 

Smartcane BMP - for your safety and the safety of the facilitators, most of the Smartcane BMP team is working remotely but definitely still available to growers and able to assist you with your Smartcane BMP queries. Find your local Facilitator by clicking on your district on the Smartcane BMP website  https://smartcane.com.au/ to discuss options in your district including:

  • Contactless farm visits
  • Video links
  • Data sharing via email, digital images and phone calls
  • Virtual pre-audits and accreditation audits

Thank You for your ongoing support and we look forward to working with you all (at a safe distance). 

 

CANEGROWERS Insurance is open for business. Our network of brokers is available to assist you with all types of insurance, including claims.
Find your local broker's phone number and email on the CANEGROWERS Insurance page.

 

If you're wondering about other organisations within the wider sugar industry, here's a collection of links which explain what measures being put in place:

  • Sugar Research Australia is working to minimise disruption for the industry. A reduced number of staff is working at SRA office locations. If you have questions or need to contact SRA, you're asked to phone your nearest office.
  • QSL has put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions covering what's happening with their offices, sugar sales and grower pricing.

 

AgSafe has advised that drumMUSTER collections have ceased until further notice to protect volunteers and community groups involved in the program. To check if a waste depot near year is still collecting, check with the operator such as the council or visit http://www.drummuster.org.au/find-a-collection-site/

 

Do you still have a question about COVID-19 and the sugarcane industry?

Email CANEGROWERS and we'll try to help info@canegrowers.com.au

 

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