By Growcom CEO David Thomson
It’s the question on every farmer’s lips, ‘what happens if someone on my farm tests positive for coronavirus?”
The concern is all the more real for horticulture growers managing large staffs and gearing up for harvest season.
As industry prepares as much as possible for business as usual, farmers should take confidence knowing there are several practical measures they can put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Safe Food Queensland has just released a guideline to help growers manage and mitigate effects of the pandemic with specific advice for food production facilities, farms and packing sheds.
This includes advice on what types of exposure lead to a need for staff to self-isolate when working with someone who tests positive. Growers can start thinking about what changes they can reasonably make to their operations to avoid the need for staff to self-isolate.
The guideline is accompanied by a checklist of proactive measures that should be taken to protect the workforce and manage the risk into the future.
The guideline and checklist can be found here: https://www.safefood.qld.gov.au/newsroom/guideline-for-reducing-workforce-impacts-related-to-covid-19/
Concerning broader workforce availability and also containing the spread of COVID-19, the Federal Government has announced a temporary extension of relevant visas to help farmers access the workforces they need as well as restrictions on the free movement of visa holders.
Farm workers participating in the Pacific Labour Schemes, Seasonal Worker Program and working holiday makers are now able to continue to work in the agriculture and food processing sector for another 12 months.
The changes come with strict new conditions to ensure the virus is not transported to regional and rural communities.
Workers are now required to self-isolate for 14 days and register at the Australian Government website before moving to another region. Those who do not comply will face having their visa cancelled.
As these new conditions are being implemented we will be working closely with both Federal and State Governments to ensure growers are able to keep producing food for the nation through this pandemic, without creating unnecessary risk to themselves, their workers, or local communities.
We have launched a page on our website dedicated to providing horticulture growers with the best and latest advice concerning COVID-19. For more information, visit https://www.growcom.com.au/coronavirus/