Sunshine Coast Commercial Fishers to receive major Federal Govt Export Booost
Sunshine Coast Commercial fishing businesses will regain desperately needed access to export markets throughout Asia thanks to a new $110 million initiative from the Federal Government. The return of export income to these businesses will make a dramatic difference to this vital $33.4m local industry, preventing boats standing idle and local fishers losing their jobs.
Federal Member for Fisher Andrew Wallace said that the International Freight Assistance Mechanism would support new freight flights to key Asian markets, carrying the Sunshine Coast’s high quality seafood to the world once again. The Sunshine Coast exported $19.8 million in seafood last year.
“The seafood industry is worth $5.3 billion to the national economy. We want to ensure that places like Walker Seafoods or Fraser Isle Spanner Crabs on the Sunshine Coast that produce terrific seafood and employ a great many Australians are able to keep their products available to customers overseas because ultimately that will save jobs on the Sunshine Coast.”
“We are working with industry to ensure that we can get produce into the bellies of aircraft and onto the plates of restaurants overseas.” Mr Wallace said.
The International Freight Assistance Mechanism will initially focus on the key markets of China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UAE, with four key departure hubs: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. The return flights from Asia will bring back vital medical supplies, medicines and equipment.
“This is a two phase project. We’ll get our produce overseas and we’ll also get lifesaving equipment into Australia as soon as possible.” Mr Wallace said.
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.
Heidi Walker, Managing Director of Mooloolaba’s Walker Seafoods said “This is a great initiative from the Government that ultimately is going to save our business. Without being able to export we lose around three-quarters of our turnover and we risk losing 50 of our staff. We’re really excited to see what the Government has announced today.”
The initiative will focus on high-demand agricultural and fisheries exports who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis including seafood, premium red meat, dairy, and horticulture. The first flight is expected to leave in the next 2 weeks.
Jason Simpson, Sales Manager of Fraser Isle Spanner Crabs said “The news that Andrew and the Government have given us this morning is the best news we have had in three weeks. It’s really given us some hope. When Mother Nature produces we have got to deliver, so this puts us back in the game. People need to work. They need to get out and interact, so this is great news!”
Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonathon Duniam said the freight assistance and levy relief was a lifeline for Australian fishers.
“The fishing industry was one of the first hit when access to China was cut off in January, bringing many in the industry to their knees,” Assistant Minister Duniam said.
“Unlocking key international markets will get thousands of fishers, divers, deckhands and processors back on the job, and the levy relief will help to keep fishers financially afloat.
“Our seafood industry has been built on the back of some of the toughest and most resilient Australians, and this assistance will ensure that the sector can build a bridge to recovery.”
The initiative will be overseen by Mr Michael Byrne, who has been appointed as the International Freight Coordinator General. Mr Byrne has significant international logistics experience as Managing Director of Australia’s two largest logistics companies Toll Holdings and Linfox plus as a non-executive director of Australia Post.
Mr 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.
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.