THE FEDERAL agriculture minister has promised a swift resolution to the complexities around interstate travel in the wake of the COVID-19 complexities that threaten to wreak havoc with agricultural supply chains.
"A solution is being sorted and will be found soon," David Littleproud told the Australian Grains Industry Conference earlier in the week.
With stricter restrictions imposed on movements out of Victoria and to a lesser extent NSW, those in agriculture are nervous not only about attracting workforces for seasonal work but for the ability to able to freight their produce to market.
Requirements for truck drivers to have had a negative COVID-19 test in the past seven days before entering certain states were described at the conference as unrealistic and potentially disastrous for the grains industry.
"Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is meeting with state transport ministers this week to help rectify the situation to help the sector continue to operate," Mr Littleproud said.
Mr Littleproud said it was a difficult balancing act.
"We have the chief medical officers making decisions based purely on health grounds, and that can include broad scale restrictions, which is fine, but we then have to assess the practical implications of that.
"Are the restrictions pragmatic and are they workable, these are the questions we have to ask."
He said there had been positive developments in the citrus industry, where concessions are being made to allow cross border pickers to allow this year's crop to be harvested, which could be road map for further schemes to allow agriculture to keep operating in times of restrictions on movement.
Mr Littleproud acknowledged agriculture would be under the pump this year in terms of finding enough workers for seasonal labour requirements.
"We normally have around 200,000 backpackers in the country, that is down to 85,000, the seasonal visa holders are well down, there is absolutely no doubt it is going to be a challenge to attract workers.
"It is a concern and it is the issue I would say is taking up the most of my time at present."
However, he said he hoped government incentives, such as higher payments to get Australians to take up seasonal work, would assist.
"It would be great if we could get people off the couch and picking fruit, the reality is it is not always practical to move thousands of kilometres for six weeks work, but we are looking to develop a framework that makes it easier for agricultural businesses to attract workers."