EXPORT PRODUCE: Broccoli farmer Troy Qualischefski at his farm in Gatton. Photo: Photo: File /Glenn Hunt
EXPORT PRODUCE: Broccoli farmer Troy Qualischefski at his farm in Gatton. Photo: Photo: File /Glenn Hunt

$170m export package to keep farms operating, staff employed

A $170 million economic package will aid Lockyer Valley growers in exporting their produce.

The funding, from the Australian Government, will support farmers across the nation and help farming business stay operational.

Federal MP for Wright, Scott Buchholz, said the flights exporting fresh produce would return to Australia with additional medical supplies and equipment to support the health system.

Lockyer Valley farmer Troy Qualischefski, who operates Qualipac, said export of fresh produce was vital to maintain sales volumes and keep team members employed

"Most industries have been affected in some way by this pandemic and agriculture is no different, particularly with regards to exports. It has definitely presented some challenges in getting produce to overseas markets and the Government's support for this cause is certainly welcomed," he said.

Mr Buchholz said the package involved a $110m investment into the International Freight Assistance Mechanism, which would provide agricultural exporters the capacity to restore their export business.

"Our response to this pandemic remains clear: save lives and save livelihoods. Every element of our response is guided by that core principal," Mr Buchholz said.

"Here in the Lockyer Valley, agriculture and horticulture, processing and packaging is a large, key element of the economy and makeup a considerable portion of the workforce. Not to mention the supply chain that supports it - transport, seed and fertiliser providers, machinery and so on.

"We have to keep our focus on supporting Australians through this and agriculture is key to that. Because without our farmers, without our growers, without our processors - we do not only lose jobs and income, we lose the very people that supply the food our families buy and eat," Mr Buchholz said.

The suite of measures announced will support local businesses, such as Qualipac, to continue to sell product into key markets.

An additional $49.8m will be injected into the Export Market Development Grant program, providing exporters with a reimbursement of costs of marketing their products around the world.

"What this does for our local exporters, whether they are marketing food such as broccoli and beans, or carrots and celery - it provides relief and helps with cash flow," Mr Buchholz said.

"On the back of flood, storm, drought and fires - farmers and growers have taken a hit - we're backing them in at this critical time."

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 per cent of their total eligible marketing expenses.

Last year alone, almost 4000 Small and Medium Enterprises accessed the EMDG scheme, employing almost 70,000 Australians and generating exports worth $3.8 billion.

Last week, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham announced further finance support for Australian exporters impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, unlocking business-saving loans between $250,000 and $50 million under a new $500 million capital facility to be administered by Export Finance Australia.