Seafood Industry Australia seeks government help “to keep the industry afloat”

Published on
March 25, 2020

Seafood Industry Australia (SIA) is seeking government assistance to help it through the crisis resulting from the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a statement on Monday, 23 March, SIA CEO Jane Lovell said the organization would need the government’s assistance “to keep the industry afloat.” She said the assistance could be in the form of removing all fees and charges on the agriculture and seafood industry.

“We’ve asked all governments across Australia to help us through the next 6-12 months by removing all fees and charges across all of agriculture – not just the seafood industry,” Lovell said. “We need to secure Australia’s agriculture industry now, so we’re here to continue operating on the other side of this."

Lovell said the industry would need the government to step in to “keep fish on the table.”

“Globally, some markets are beginning to reopen and we need the certainty of freight to be able to access them,” she said. “Getting back to work is the best sort of stimulus, it’s good for morale and it shows we understand our role in meeting the global food task. We are working with Seafood Trade Advisory Group (STAG), industry associations, seafood businesses across Australia and the Federal Government on ways to provide some certainty of supply.”

Lovell said since mid-January, SIA has been in discussion with all levels of government to ensure our industry receives the support it needs. She also urged consumers not to panic buy.

“We are also extending calls for calm among panic buyers. Our fishing vessels need to be restocked so they can go fishing, and this means we need more than two bags of frozen vegetables and two packets of pasta, and they certainly need some toilet paper. Some of our larger vessels have arrangements in place, but the rest of the industry shops at their local supermarket, just like you and me,” she said. “We need to find a way for our bona fide primary producers to access the supplies they need, so our fishers can continue harvesting and growing the food we all need.”

The pandemic has been impacting seafood businesses and the supply chain and Lovell said fishermen need to be able to work to provide consumers with food, especially in the time of coronavirus.

“The Australian seafood industry plays a critical role in the global food task, and we want to get back to work,” Lovell said. “We are confident we can continue to work with our governments on the logistics of the various lockdowns, and that the food supply chain will be recognized as an essential service.”

Last month, South Australian Senator Simon Birmingham, who is also the minister for trade, tourism, and investment, as well as Tasmanian Senator Jonathon Duniam, the assistant minister for forestry and fisheries, wrote a letter to the seafood industry recognizing the hardships it is going through amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Cancellations of sales of Australian seafood to China related to the pandemic have hit parts of the industry particularly hard.

“Our government is continuing to work closely with industry and State Governments to support those in the fishing industry impacted by this downturn in demand and access,” the letter stated. “Please do not hesitate to continue to engage with our offices as we work together through this challenging time for the industry.”

Photo courtesy of Albert Pego/Shutterstock 

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