The coronavirus pandemic has made it far more difficult for Australian export market to meet the demand for their produce.

With more than half of the country’s 25 million people placed in lockdown on Tuesday due to an outbreak of the Delta variant of COVID-19, according to Reuters, the challenges they have faced are unlikely to abate soon.

Getting help from experts in international business planning and risk advisory like RSM Global could be vital for companies that find themselves in such circumstances.

Logistical problems

The pandemic has led to huge logistical issues for Australian exporters, with the price of sea and air freight increasing dramatically amid the spread of COVID-19.

Dianne Tipping, chair of the Export Council of Australia, explained: “We have great agriculture, great vegetables and great fruit – but we are challenged at the moment.

“We do need to remember that people want to buy our product from Australia, but it is the challenge of how do we get it to them, quickly and still fresh.

“We cannot afford to lose our export markets, because there is always someone ready to pounce when we don’t go there and sell our product. Export is vital for Australia and our economy, and we do produce more than what we can eat. So, if we don’t grow them and sell them overseas, we lose jobs as well.”

Reducing tariffs, speeding up border checks and keeping trade moving without physical contact, and thus removing any COVID-19 concerns, could help ease the pressure on Australian export market.

Workforce concerns

Foreign workers make up a significant proportion of the labour force in Australia’s agricultural industry.

However, there are concerns it could be significantly understaffed after it was announced that the country’s borders will be largely closed until the middle of next year.

National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Tony Mahar told Financial Review: “It has been a setback for everyone in the business community, including farmers.

“The challenge of getting people into the country in a safe way is a top priority and governments, state and federal, need to work together on that.”

Changes to the working holiday maker programme have been made in a bid to boost Australia’s economy by allowing foreign workers who remained in the country during the pandemic to extend their stay.

However, this could negatively impact agriculture because work in the tourism and hospitality sectors in remote regions will also count towards eligibility for a second- or third-year extension.

It is hoped the shortage of workers will be addressed with the introduction of a new agricultural visa by the end of September 2021, though. This will be made available to citizens from the UK and 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The visa will allow workers to undertake seasonal agricultural work in Australia for three years, though they must return home for three months each year.