By Growcom CEO Stephen Barnard

A common wish we have for others at this time is for a safe and happy New Year. And for 2021, this wish for safety is more important than ever.

We are an industry already keenly aware of the need to operate safely. But COVID-19 has added a level of significance to our safety not seen before.

Growers have proven their adaptability and resourcefulness by quickly putting in place a whole range of new measures and processes to manage the risk posed to their staff and themselves by COVID.

But the impact of COVID on farm safety doesn’t end with the risk posed by the disease itself.

As we’ve flagged in earlier columns in the Country Life, having to harvest without sufficient seasonal labour is placing growers under increased stress and potentially putting our safety under pressure.

Aside from staying safe on farm, this New Year brings with it a focus on the measures we have in place to assure the safety of food for consumers.

The national food safety regulator will continue its review of food safety measures, in particular those concerning the production and processing of berries, leafy vegetables and melons, and our reliance on voluntary certification schemes.

Also, a review has been initiated of the extra requirements the major supermarkets expect growers to meet on top of these voluntary food safety schemes.

In addition to all of this, we’re reminded with the first cyclone of the season crossing the Queensland coast of the risks to safety posed by natural disasters.

Growcom considers the safety of everyone involved in our industry as one of our leading priorities. Producing food and sustenance for the public is essential work, but we can’t compromise on safety.

So growers are encouraged to get in touch for advice on how to best meet their COVID-19 responsibilities and best prepare for natural disasters.

And we will continue to engage with those setting our food safety standards to ensure requirements are effective without placing an unjustified burden on businesses.