Farmers warn of nationwide food shortages and bare supermarket shelves if state borders don’t open

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Farmers warn of nationwide food shortages if stubborn politicians refuse to open state borders – leaving supermarket shelves EMPTY

  • Upcoming harvest season could be heavily impacted by border restrictions
  • Could result in a food shortage on supermarket shelves across the country
  • Growing calls for those in agriculture industry to move freely across borders

Farmers have delivered a desperate plea to state premiers to reopen state borders, amid growing fears of a dire food shortage on supermarket shelves across the country.

The upcoming harvest season could be heavily impacted by border restrictions as Victoria and New South Wales battle to control a second wave of coronavirus infections. 

The National Farmers’ Federation understands the wishes of states such as Queensland South Australia wanting to keep their residents safe but says those in the struggling agriculture industry need to move freely across borders.

Many NSW and Victoria farmers are finding it tough to find interstate workers and contractors as Queenslanders must quarantine for two weeks at their own expense when they return home while South Australians have to self-quarantine.

Border restrictions could result in more bare shelves unless more is done to support the farming and agricultural industries. Pictured are empty shelves taken in Melbourne August 2

The federation calls for the national cabinet to consider a system for the agricultural and farming industries to move more freely at its next meeting this Friday.

‘Outside Sydney and Newcastle there are only two active cases within 700km of the Queensland border. To put restrictions on that whole area is just not risk-based,’ president Fiona Simson told The Australian.

Barley farmers Meg and Rowen Tighe from Croppa Creek in northern New South Wales are cut off from Queensland’s safe travel bubble, despite just being 80 kilometres from the border at Goondiwindi. 

The couple have grave concerns about the upcoming season as they send most of their crops to Brisbane and have already lost several Queensland contractors because of border restrictions.

Barley farmers Meg and Rowen Tighe (pictured) from northern NSW fear they'll be hit hard by the Queensland border closures during the upcoming harvest season

Barley farmers Meg and Rowen Tighe (pictured) from northern NSW fear they’ll be hit hard by the Queensland border closures during the upcoming harvest season

The Tighes are also worried they won’t be buy machinery parts they can only get in Queensland.

‘We have literally been locked out without the realisation and understanding of where we’re situated and how our business works,’ Ms Tighe said. 

 ‘All of our grain commodities go across the border to Queensland. Burst the bubble — that’s what we’re fighting for.’

GrainGrowers chairman Brett Hosking called for a nationally co-ordinated approach with consistent travel rules for farmers.

Domestic border closures and restrictions also mean the industry cannot use the itinerant workers who move between states from harvest to harvest, according to the Australian Fresh Produce Alliance [AFPA].

The National Farmers' Federation fears the upcoming harvest season could be heavily impacted by border restrictions. Pictured is a barley farm in central west NSW

The National Farmers’ Federation fears the upcoming harvest season could be heavily impacted by border restrictions. Pictured is a barley farm in central west NSW

‘The reduction in workers we’re seeing as a result of COVID-19, plus the issues we’re finding trying to move workers across production locations is making it even more difficult for fruit and vegetable farmers to secure the workforce needed to continue to supply all Australians with fresh food,’ AFPA chief executive Michael Rogers said.

The Supermarkets Taskforce, an alliance of major supermarkets warned earlier this month the border restrictions will disrupt the grocery supply chain across Australia. 

Victorian distribution centres have also been forced to reduce their workforce to two-thirds of normal production after Melbourne recently went into stage four lockdown for at least six weeks.

There are warnings of a food shortage on supermarket shelves across the country. Pictured is a near-empty produce section in a Melbourne supermarket

There are warnings of a food shortage on supermarket shelves across the country. Pictured is a near-empty produce section in a Melbourne supermarket

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