DECREASED EXPORT: Sirromet winery is usually known for its strong market in China and Japan with tours guides like that of Joanna Song and Taishi Sato regularly promoting but since coronavirus the Asian market has decreased significantly. CREDIT: Russel Shakespeare.
DECREASED EXPORT: Sirromet winery is usually known for its strong market in China and Japan with tours guides like that of Joanna Song and Taishi Sato regularly promoting but since coronavirus the Asian market has decreased significantly. CREDIT: Russel Shakespeare.

Rescue package comes ‘too early to tell’ for export industry

IT IS too early for the Southern Downs agricultural industry to tell whether a $170 million export assistance package will be the lifeline it needs to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, the Australian Government announced a relaunch of hundreds of flights to deliver fresh produce to key Asian markets, with the $110 million going towards co-ordinated flights out of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, and $50 million towards reimbursing existing export grants.

John Hart, company director of Warwick meat export giant John Dee, said only time would show whether it would be the key to outlasting a rapidly-evolving marketplace.

"We're all adapting and any innovative ideas the government has to keep things stable is welcome," he said.

"They are doing everything they can but we're all readjusting.

"They are trying to help fast track the economy but it won't pick back up quickly."

With Asian exports making up 30 per cent of John Dee's export trade, restaurant and airport closures had an undeniable impact on the business.

"People are wanting to buy but the pandemic effect is that restaurants are closed and people can't socialise," he said.

"That leads to a change in finances because people can't take on the product they usually do."

While China had taken small steps back to normalcy, Mr Hart warned the export world was only "starting to grapple" with the widespread economic collapse.

"The economy of the world is yet to recover and confidence has to come out back out of Asian countries too," he could.

"We're doing what we can and we want to thank staff for co-operating and all business for the mutual co-operation we've seen because that's what we need right now."

Return flights, under the program, will provide an opportunity for Australia to import medical equipment and medicines.

For Granite Belt winemakers like Rod Hill of Sirromet Wines, the impact on their trade crisis wasn't yet known.

Unlike fresh produce, wineries transported goods via freight ships, despite attributing 95 per cent of their export market as Asian.

"Which ship most of our wines to two countries which is China and Japan and so far the coronavirus has had a significant impact on our business," Mr Hill said.

But more pertinent to production, according Mr Hill, was national closures.

"It's been a quadruple whammy - fire, drought, flood and now a pandemic," he said.

"There's a knock-on effect everywhere. People drink wines at bars and restaurants and they're obviously not going to order and then we've also had a massive hit to our own on-site hospitality.

"We do appreciate that people are helping as much as we can and the best way to do that is to jump online and buy some wine.

"We are still making and shipping all around the country at this stage."



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