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)
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.
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.
General advice: The NT has created a dedicated website with advice for communities and businesses.
Border arrangements: There are border arrangements in place for the NT, including mandatory self-quarantine.
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.
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.
General advice: Tasmania has a dedicated website for COVID-19 information from state and federal health authorities.
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.
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 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)
Goat Industry Council of Australia: Red meat supply chains stronger together in fight against COVID19 (26 March 2020)
Meat & Livestock Australia: MLA’s COVID-19 statement (25 March 2020)
Wildlife Health Australia: Novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) (Fact sheet)
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.
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.
- Services Australia
- Agribusiness economic support:The Government’s economic response to Coronavirus contained no measures specific to the agribusiness sector, though the farming sector will benefit along with the rest of the business community
- Economic impact of COVID-19 on agribusiness: The coronavirus (COVID-19) represents significant short-term risks to international demand for Australian meat and fisheries products and is expected to cause medium level disruption over the longer term.
- Summary of Australian Government financial assistance measures: accelerated depreciation, cash flow boost, apprentices, debt relief, instant asset writeoffs, credit guarantee for SME borrowing.
- Summary of State & Territory Government financial assistance measures: payroll tax waivers, rates waivers, fee exemptions.
- COVID-19 Bank Assistance: As businesses and individuals navigate through the financial crisis arising from COVID-19 it is essential that they engage with their bank early and proactively. To assist you to quickly assess the relief packages provided by the major banks, RSM set out a summary of key changes in terms, rates and fees for both business and personal customers.
- $1,500 ‘JobKeeper’ payment – Further support to businesses to retain workers
- Standing employees down as a result of Coronavirus: With Government restricted trading measures set to be in place for a number of months and constantly evolving, the ability to stand down employees, either on their accrued leave or on unpaid leave, is increasingly being utilised .
- Workers compensation considerations for Coronavirus: The important conclusion is that it is undoubtedly the case that COVID-19, if contracted in the course of a worker’s employment, can constitute an injury within the meaning of s4 of the 1987 Act.
- Financial measures to assist SMEs through COVID-19 (instant asset write-off, apprentice support, loan guarantees etc)
- Insolvency – Temporary relief for financially distressed businesses: The Government has announced measures to extend relevant time periods for the expiration of statutory demands (Companies) and bankruptcy notices (Individuals) from 21 days to six months. The measures also provide temporary relief for personal liability for insolvent trading.
- Cash Boost $100,000: To access the cash flow boost, you must lodge your activity statement. If you do not need to lodge an activity statement in respect of you PAYG withholding the ATO is working through a solution and will update its website with more information on what you need to do.
- COVID-19 and a remote workforce – steps to securing your organisation against cyber-attacks
- Working from home – statutory liability considerations: The current COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a significant portion of the broader workforce working from home. Questions arise as to whether an injury at home during the usual work day gives rise to an entitlement to compensation.
- World Health Organization
- Australian Government Department of Health
- Expert Report – COVID-19 not transmitted by animals: via the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety