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Mixed blessings but no panic during pandemic

Editorial by APL CEO, Margo Andrae, for Australian Pork Newspaper

One of the many mixed blessings of COVID-19 has been the unified way Australian agriculture has worked together throughout the pandemic.

Australian Pork Ltd and state pork producer representatives, in conjunction with state farming organisations, have been participating in high-level work with the National Farmers’ Federation and the Federal Government to ensure the business of farming and agricultural supply chains have not been needlessly impacted by lock-down measures.

We should not be complacent about the importance of this advocacy work. No matter the well-meaning support of government in recent weeks, so sweeping were the restrictions introduced that many of the everyday necessities of agriculture could have been inadvertently jeopardised.

The cross-border delivery of pigs for processing and fodder to farms, interstate movement of vets and transport of semen have been just a few of the exemptions we’ve negotiated in order to minimise disruptions to on-farm production and keep our supply chains operational.

Yes, APL has been working hard to achieve the best outcomes for pork producers, but a great deal of work has also been undertaken by our producer members. From our board directors, state presidents, APL delegates and grass-roots producers, the diligent effort from across industry has shone a light on how innovative, professional and unified Australian pork is.

For APL, we’ve turned the frustration of not being able to meet with producers face-to-face into an opportunity to engage effectively with our members online.

In lieu of our scheduled Delegates meeting in Adelaide on May 14, APL chair Andrew Baxter and I were pleased to host a successful online meeting, which drew strong participation from Delegates and very positive feedback.

A prominent agenda item for the Delegates meeting was an update regarding APL’s 2020-2025 Strategic Plan. We are grateful for the support received and confident about the shared vision for our industry’s future.

While travel restrictions remain in place, further information about the Strategic Plan can be viewed via a ‘virtual roadshow’.

Strong producer engagement will continue to guide APL’s success in the future and, as such, direct communication from the farmgate is highlighted as one of the Strategic Plan’s highest priorities.

Where distance or busy schedules have historically limited the in-person dialogue between industry organisations and their members, recent weeks have confirmed online meetings should be utilised more in the future.

Our video meetings have been a great way of keeping in touch with producers and giving them a forum to share their experiences through COVID-19. The pandemic seems to have also provided a timely excuse for our members to check-in on each other in relation to how they are faring, both in terms of their farm businesses and their personal wellbeing.

It seems inevitable that the various challenges and opportunities of COVID-19 will continue to dominate the business outlook for Australia’s pork producers for the rest of 2020.

There are significant issues producers are facing which require ongoing support. Finding new markets for slaughter-ready pigs where traditional supply chains have been disrupted, including smaller and niche producers, continues to be a priority. This will remain the case for the foreseeable future, even while export volumes grow, foodservice demand increases and our marketing campaigns in support of Australian pork sales help ease the pressure.

The foodservice industry’s recovery, now that dining restrictions are easing, will relieve some of the pressure on our supply chains. But the reality is it will take time to grow sales volumes, which is why supporting our foodservice partners in rebuilding their businesses is a key priority for APL.

Producers will be eager to see how grain prices are shaped by both seasonal fortunes here in Australia and export market disruptions overseas, but we should be heartened that indicator prices for pigs will head into June on a firmer footing. These factors are positives for producers, especially those who have been exposed to the worst of high feed prices and lower pig prices since Easter.

APL will continue our work with our producer members, state-based producer organisations, NFF and all levels of government to ensure Australia’s pork industry continues to generate much-needed economic activity across the country, while providing affordable, versatile pork for Australian consumers.

Together, we are leading our industry through these extraordinary times and, as a result, we are well placed to strengthen our position in the post-COVID-19 marketplace.

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Australian Pork Limited

The producer owned organisation supporting and promoting the Australian pork industry. Australian Pork Limited (APL) is caring for the future of Australian pork.