This page is being updated regularly with new information on the impacts of COVID-19 relevant to the sugarcane industry.
The impact of the spread of the COVID-19 virus is being felt across the sugar industry as it is in all of our communities and around the world.
CANEGROWERS is representing the sugarcane 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 will continue to serve sugarcane growers through these enormously volatile times.
Scroll down for industry news and information updated as it becomes available.....
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.
Scroll down to find information on economic stimulus measures put in place by the Federal and State governments.
Are you employing someone for the harvest who needs to travel from interstate?
There are different conditions depending on which borders the worker needs to cross to get to your farm. The NFF website contains information about COVID-19 border controls and links to what is needed at each point https://farmhub.org.au/covid-19-border-controls-information/
Agribusiness is a critical service but to come into Queensland, three things are needed:
- The employer will need to submit a form for a Queensland Entry pass for the worker. The form is here https://www.qld.gov.au/border-pass
- The worker will need to carry some proof (such as a letter) that they are travelling directly to a job.
- Employers must also have a COVID-19 Health Plan in place. The Word document template for a Plan 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).
For your safety and the safety of our 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.
Please contact your local Facilitator 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). Find your local Facilitator by clicking on your district on the Smartcane BMP website https://smartcane.com.au/
If you're needing farm labour now or in the near future and your usual pattern of hiring is disrupted, these suggestions may help:
- Use the Harvest Trail online facility at https://jobsearch.gov.au/harvest
- Lodge vacancies directly onto jobsearch.gov.au or register your business on the Jobactive website to post positions for free
- Contact your local CANEGROWERS office as some of them do maintain a jobs list or board of people looking for work locally
A reminder that 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.
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/
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 first webinar was yesterday on the topic Supporting Agriculture with business continuity planning & managing supply chain disruption and it's now available to watch here: https://youtu.be/KxMIGfi8ZAA
CANEGROWERS is operating at full capacity even though some staff ar now located outside of their usual offices and face to face meetings and travel has been suspended. Scroll down to read more.
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: (more will be added as they become available)
- 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.
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/
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/
A key milestone has been the clarification that our agricultural supply chain is considered an essential service. This means that critical functions and movement of resources and produce can be maintained while state border controls are in place. They will also be maintained if any more stringent lockdown measures are enforced. With State and Commonwealth engagement, CANEGROWERS is able to monitor supply, logistics and trade implications and ensure sugar-related issues are well considered in planning and policy decisions. Read the Agriculture Minister's media release here
CANEGROWERS is convening an Australian sugar industry working group to assess and plan for the short, medium and long term impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.
"On behalf of our members, we have taken the initiative to get the whole supply chain together to talk about what this unprecedented health emergency could mean for sugarcane harvesting, transport, processing and ultimately export of Australian raw sugar in the 2020 season," CANEGROWERS CEO Dan Galligan said. "Growers and others in the industry are understandably concerned about what could happen in the coming months.
"By bringing together, on regular teleconferences, grower representatives with people from the mills, marketers and port facilities we will be able to talk through scenarios and ensure that there is cooperation at every level.
"We are very conscious of the importance of our industry, of which growers are the foundation, to the local, state and national economies. We are also wanting to ensure that however the industry works as the 2020 season ramps up over the coming months, our people are kept as safe as possible.
At the national level, CANEGROWERS is representing sugarcane industry interests at a National Farmers' Federation-convened consultative group that is meeting on a weekly basis with the Federal Agriculture Minister and Federal Department of Agriculture to forecast and manage impacts.
Read the full media release here
While the situation is changing daily, 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 did not receive this Grower Update by email on March 23 please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you still have a question about COVID-19 and the sugarcane industry?
Email CANEGROWERS and we'll try to help email@example.com