TOUGH new restrictions now in place in relation to the New South Wales COVID lockdown have not stopped farm workers or consultants, or the movement of grain and livestock, from getting where they need to go.
However, they have placed a significant administrative burden on businesses which operate on both sides of the NSW-Queensland border, particularly when staff live on one side and work on the other.
Among those affected is Michael Castor and Associates (MCA), which has up to 30 staff working in its agronomy business, and additional employees who farm a property near Goondiwindi the company manages.
“Our business has been quite heavily impacted,” MCA office manager Julie Avishai said.
MCA is based in Goondiwindi. Ms Avishai said it had employees who lived south of the border at Boggabilla but worked in Goondiwindi, and employees who lived north of the border and were travelling into NSW for work.
Queensland has no lockdowns in place, and is admitting people travelling from NSW only for essential reasons, including the transport of livestock and grain and the conducting of agricultural business.
“My advice from the (Queensland) police is that we can still access our clients within the border zone as long as our employees have a letter saying exactly which farm they’re going to and why.
Following on from the escalating COVID situation in Sydney, nine local government areas (LGAs) in central and north-west NSW went into lockdown last week.
At 5pm on Saturday, this was extended to include every LGA in NSW, and Queensland residents travelling into NSW south of the border zone for agricultural work are now required to carry up to five documents.
MCA has several clients in the Bellata region, south of the NSW-Queensland border zone, and its employees are therefore affected.
The documents required by the Queensland Government to enable return across the border once persons have been south of the border zone are:
- a letter from the bearer’s employer stating the nature and location of the work they will be doing, and why it is essential;
- results of a rolling seven-day test showing the bearer to be COVID negative;
- a Queensland Government X Pass to grant access to the border zone;
- a letter from Queensland chief medical officer Jeanette Young; and,
- an agribusiness exemption.
Ms Avishai said MCA had advised all its employees to park their vehicles and consult with police in person prior to crossing the border to ensure they were up to date with the latest information.
“It’s extremely difficult for the police and we have a lot of sympathy for the situation they are in.”
She said the company was doing all it could to ensure it could keep servicing its clients, and providing them with essential agronomic advice as winter crops continue their growth phase, and the summer-cropping season approaches.
“We need to have records of where our staff have been and why, and a quarantine plan, and letters stating that the work they’re doing is essential.”
Grain keeps rolling
Trade sources have told Grain Central that delivery on a small number of contracts has been deferred while transport operators north of the border generate documentation required for drivers to pick up grain south of the border zone.
One trader said a feedlot on the Liverpool Plains last week requested a pause in grain deliveries in response to what appeared to be an escalating COVID situation in LGAs north and north-west of Dubbo.
“They’re now taking grain again, so we won’t be falling behind on August deliveries,” the trader said.
The Hunter Region is home to two grain export terminals and several large consumers.
It went into lockdown on August 5, and the trader said some truck drivers were not keen to travel there for now because of the perceived COVID risk.
Queensland supplies tighten
One trade source said the clearing out of grain stocks held by GrainCorp and other bulk handlers and traders ahead of the southern Queensland harvest meant the call on grain from NSW was accelerating.
“Queensland does not have enough Hard-type wheat in storage to get the flour mills and some other end users through to new crop,” one trader said.
“That means there’ll be a need to bring milling wheat as well as feedgrain into Queensland until we get into October and new crop is available.”
One transport operator said he was due to send several road trains to Moree to collect grain to bring into Queensland today, but the pick-up had been deferred until COVID requirements could be met.
“These regulations came into effect over the weekend, so it takes a few days to get everything into place when you’re dealing with grain and trucks in different locations.”
Stock movements slow
With most properties in eastern and South Australia now in the restocking phase, long-distance livestock movements of store animals appear to be at their lowest in ages.
Elders Broken Hill manager Nick Williamson said the widespread use of AuctionsPlus had minimised the need for sheep to go to saleyards, and big movements of store sheep had slowed.
“Queensland has bought a lot of sheep from us lately which we haven’t seen in a long time, and east of us has had a heap of rain, so if there are sheep to sell, they are tending to go there.
“Not many areas haven’t had rain now so our numbers are building up, which is good to see now that the country’s looking so much better than it did.
“Shearing’s still happening, and station life continues.”
Broken Hill is located in NSW near the South Australian border, which is also closed to travellers from NSW except on essential business.
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