(Australian Associated Press)
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has defended supporting exporters through a freight subsidy so that farmers can get their produce abroad, rather than keeping it at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
The minister said Australia has a population of 25 million but produces enough food for 75 million people.
He said the crisis has produced an opportunity for Australian agriculture to showcase itself on the international stage through reliable supplies of good quality food and fibre.
However, the reduction in international flights because of the COVID-19 crisis has meant freight costs have “skyrocketed”.
“That is why we took the extraordinary steps to put up $110 million into a freight subsidy,” Mr Littleproud told Sky News on Sunday.
“Not to pay for all the freight but to try and minimise the increase in costs for our producers to be able to send their produce around the world and continue to be able to take advantage of the free trade agreements we have put in place.”
He said the agriculture and resource sectors are helping to underpin the national economy through the crisis.
“This is about profitability to our regional sectors,” Mr Littleproud said.
“It will help our economy rebound quicker on the back of agriculture and resources.”
The government announced temporary changes to backpacker visas on Saturday, which will enable them to stay longer to work on farms at a critical crop picking time during the crisis.