Extra funding and flights to help food exporters

Thursday, 02 April, 2020

Extra funding and flights to help food exporters

The COVID-19 crisis is placing immense pressure on Australian food exporters; now extra government funding and a freight flight initiative have been established to help those hit hard by the crisis.

Medical supplies for lobsters

On 1 April 2020, the government launched a new $110 million flight program to help fresh food exporters deliver their produce into key overseas markets, with return flights bringing back vital medical supplies, medicines and equipment. The government has appointed former Toll Holdings managing director and former Linfox chief executive Michael Byrne to oversee the program.

Byrne will work with Austrade to help establish arrangements with exporters, airlines, freight forwarders and industry bodies plus oversee the mechanism’s operations including advising the government of destinations, freight selection and prioritisation.

In addition, around $10 million in Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) levies will also be waived for all Commonwealth fishers, ensuring they do not have to pay Commonwealth levies for the remainder of 2020.

Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said the COVID-19 pandemic had led to major air freight shortages and had disrupted supply chains around the world.

“This temporary action will help Australian producers to protect the jobs of those who rely upon Australia’s export of safe, quality food into the world,” Minister Birmingham said.

“Getting our export sector back on its feet is crucial to reduce job losses through the crisis and a critical part of the ultimate economic recovery.”

The initiative is part of the government’s $1 billion Relief and Recovery Fund to support regions, communities and industry sectors that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Alexander Raths

The initiative follows news from Western Australia where four lobster processing companies, led by the Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative (GFC), have negotiated a similar deal with airlines to export a weekly shipment of 30 tonnes of live lobster and bring back medical supplies for the WA Government.

Export cost reimbursement

In another initiative announced on 1 April 2020, the Morrison government will inject an extra $49.8 million into the Export Market Development Grants (EMDG) program in the 2019–20 financial year, allowing exporters and tourism businesses to get additional reimbursements for costs incurred in marketing their products and services around the world.

Minister Birmingham said the funding boost would provide much needed relief and a timely cash flow injection for exporters and tourism businesses within the scheme who were doing it tough.

“We recognise the current COVID-19 crisis is placing immense pressure on Australian exporters and tourism businesses, many of whom felt the earliest and deepest aspects of the economic downturn,” Minister Birmingham said.

The EMDG scheme is a key Australian Government financial assistance program for aspiring and current exporters. It has been a popular vehicle to support the costs associated in reaching new markets, and this additional funding will give Australian exporters and tourism businesses extra help in these tough times.

“It means businesses within the scheme who have spent their own money to market and grow Australian exports will receive more of that money back, up to 50% of their total eligible marketing expenses,” Minister Birmingham said.

“This investment addresses the reality that businesses invested in good faith to lift Australia’s exports, but are unlikely to see immediate return on those investments. These entrepreneurial and outward looking businesses will be crucial to our future economic recovery.

“This extra $49.8 million to supplement the additional $60 million already committed by the Morrison government will bring EMDG funding to its highest level in more than 20 years at $207.7 million for the 2019–20 financial year.

“This support is in addition to other measures our government has announced to help small and medium businesses manage cash flow challenges and retain employees such as increasing the instant asset write-off, cash payments of up to $100,000 and supporting apprentices.”

Any business which has incurred eligible EMDG expenses for promotional activities in the 2019–20 financial year will be able to seek reimbursement for 50% of these expenses without the Export Performance Test applying, when they apply from 1 July.

Further information on the EMDG scheme and how to apply can be found at: www.austrade.gov.au/Australian/Export/Export-Grants.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Michael Zech

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