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Impact of COVID-19 on Australian agriculture

The COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly. Animal Health Australia is following the advice of the Australian Government Department of Health and the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and will keep this page updated as the situation develops.

National Coronavirus Helpline

Call this line if you are seeking information on coronavirus (COVID-19). The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 1800 020 080

There is currently no evidence that livestock, dogs or other domestic animals play a significant role in the transmission of the virus responsible for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2). Likewise, there is no current evidence that dogs or other domestic companion animals would show signs of disease.

The COVID-19 virus has not been reported in domestic animals or wildlife in Australia.

The current spread of the virus responsible for COVID-19 is due to transmission between people.

Information from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

On 26 March 2020, Agricultural Minister David Littleproud released a media release, Agriculture jobs essential to Australia. Key points to note include:

  • Australia’s food production and supply chain will not be affected by coronavirus shutdowns.
  • As far as the Commonwealth is concerned, food production and supply is an essential service.
  • That means State-imposed border shutdowns will not affect agricultural supply chains.
  • Read the full release here.

Jurisdictional Updates (as of 30 March 2020)

Australian Capital Territory:

General advice:The ACT has created a dedicated website with the latest information regarding healthcare, businesses and travel arrangements.

Border arrangements: There are no current border arrangements for the ACT.

New South Wales:

General advice: NSW Health has created a portal page detailing COVID-19 response measures and arrangements in NSW.

Livestock producers: NSW Department of Primary Industries has also created a page with updates and FAQs covering the impact of the response on agriculture.

Border arrangements: There are no current border arrangements in NSW.

Northern Territory:

General advice: The NT has created a dedicated website with advice for communities and businesses.

Livestock producers: This includes specific advice for animal owners (including livestock owners) and small businesses.

Border arrangements: There are border arrangements in place for the NT, including mandatory self-quarantine.

Queensland:

General advice: Queensland have created a resource page for all Queensland residents and visitors with key information about COVID-19 and Queensland’s response.

Livestock producers: This includes specific information for industry and businesses.

Border arrangements: There are border arrangements in place for Queensland.

South Australia:

General advice: SA have launched a landing page for COVID-19 information. This includes specific information for businesses.

Livestock producers: Primary Industries and Regions SA has a dedicated page for COVID-19 impacts on primary industries, including agriculture.

Border arrangements: There are border arrangements in place for SA.

Tasmania:

General advice: Tasmania has a dedicated website for COVID-19 information from state and federal health authorities.

Border arrangements: The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment have a web page and factsheet detailing border arrangement measures currently in place for Tasmania.

Victoria:

General advice: Victoria has a COVID-19 portal page with health information, travel arrangements and response measures. Victoria has declared a state of emergency.

Livestock producers: Agriculture Victoria has a page which details how response measures impact on primary industries including agriculture.

Border arrangements: There are no current border arrangements for Victoria.

Western Australia:

General advice: WA has a dedicated page for health information and response arrangements for COVID-19. This includes specific advice for businesses and industry

Livestock producers: The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has specific information regarding the COVID-19 response and its impact on agriculture in the state.

Border arrangements: There are border arrangements in place for Western Australia.

Livestock industry updates (as of 30 March 2020)

The National Farmers Federation has provided a page which contains information on the Federal Government stimulus packages, individual state and territory assistance and business assistance and support in relation to the agriculture sector.

Australian Alpaca Association AAA Statement on Covid-19 – Advice to members (12 March 2020)

Australian Dairy Farmers and Dairy Australia

Australian Eggs: Egg supply steady as demand spikes (23 March 2020)

Australian Horse Industry Council: COVID 19 – AHIC calls for clarity for horse owners and industry (27 March 2020)

Australian Lot Feeders Association

Australian Meat Industry Council

Australian Pork Limited

Australian Veterinary Association

Cattle Council of Australia

CSIRO

Equestrian Australia: EA Board Statement in Response to COVID-19 Threat (27 March 2020)
EA High Performance Update on Covid-19 (30 March 2020)

Goat Industry Council of Australia: Red meat supply chains stronger together in fight against COVID19 (26 March 2020)

Harness Racing Australia

LiveCorp

Meat & Livestock Australia: MLA’s COVID-19 statement (25 March 2020)

Racing Australia

Sheep Producers Australia

Wildlife Health Australia: Novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) (Fact sheet)

WoolProducers Australia

Information for livestock producers and pet owners

While there has been a possible case of person-to-animal transmission involving a pet dog in Hong Kong, there is currently no evidence that the virus can be transmitted from a domestic animal to a person, or between domestic animals.

Animal owners should implement good hygiene practices where animals are kept, including washing their hands after contact with animals.

Infected animal owners should not come into contact with domestic animals, where possible.

To protect their domestic animals, people should follow any further directions given to them by human and animal health authorities.

The Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) is assisting with efforts to develop a human vaccine for COVID-19. AAHL has the ability to test for the virus.

Food safety

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has reported that there is no evidence that food is a source or transmission route for COVID-19. For other coronavirus outbreaks (e.g. SARS, MERS), transmission through food consumption did not occur.

Food Safety Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) references the EFSA information, reiterating that there is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of COVID-19. FSANZ will continue to monitor developments to assess the possibility of foodborne transmission of the virus.

There are currently no cases which have shown any evidence of humans being infected via the consumption of contaminated food.

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (consumer health protection) also states that due to the relatively low environmental stability of coronaviruses, it is unlikely that imported goods such as imported foods (or consumer goods such as toys, clothing etc) would be sources of infection.  Transmission via surfaces which have recently been contaminated with viruses is possible through smear infections – however, this is only likely to occur during a short period after contamination, due to the relatively low stability of coronaviruses in the environment.

Availability of agvet chemicals

While many Australian production systems rely on imported chemicals, COVID-19 is not currently impacting access for the horticulture and grains sector. This may change if international trading arrangements slow, as would be the case for other imported commodities.

While some sectors of the market are experiencing a shortage of some chemicals, the herbicide glyphosate is the most topical, this is due to low stock levels on hand during the drought coupled with the significant spike in demand from the unexpected, but welcomed, recent rain events.

NSW Farmers has recently stated there is enough chemical supply to meet needs if overstocking or panic buying is avoided.

There are some short-term issues in accessing raw materials from China but these are expected to resolve as international trade stabilises.

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Page reviewed: 02/04/2020