The Federal Government has established a new air freight network to continue overseas exports for the agricultural and fisheries sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The network comprises 15 air freight service providers and freight forwarders.
In the first three weeks of its operation, over 560 Australian businesses have registered their interest in utilising the International Freight Assistance Mechanism and agreements for 55 freight flights have already been secured.
The network is designed to allow the International Freight Assistance Mechanism to ramp-up assistance to exporters and re-establish global supply chains.
The COVID-19 crisis has led to major air freight shortages and disrupted supply chains around the world.
Around 90 per cent of Australia’s outgoing air freight is usually exported on passenger aircraft. With very few international passenger flights leaving Australia at present, exporters are facing major hurdles.
The new network of air freight service providers and freight forwarders is crucial to coordinating international freight out of Australia until commercial passenger flights are restored.
A competitive tender process was undertaken by Austrade to select the network of air freight service providers and freight forwarders.
The successful providers are: Virgin Australia Airlines, Qantas Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Federal Express Corporation, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, CT Freight, Schenker Australia, Kuehne + Nagel Australia, Air Menzies International (Aust), Toll Group and DHL Global Forwarding.
Appointment of these airlines and freight forwarders aims to help kick-start regular cost-effective services to key export markets and enhance the capacity for full freight flights of agricultural products from regional locations.
The International Freight Assistance Mechanism is part of the Federal Government’s $1 billion Relief and Recovery Fund to support regions, communities and industry sectors that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, said the network had already assisted lobster from Western Australia, lamb from Victoria and salmon from Tasmania to be shipped to international ports and markets.
“The quicker we can get our products off the farm and onto airplanes, the more Australian jobs we can save and the quicker our agricultural exporters can bounce back,” Mr McCormack said.
Federal Trade Minister, Simon Birmingham, said that better coordination of freight out of Australia would help restore key freight routes and establish more frequent flights to key markets so Australia’s agricultural and fisheries exporters can deliver their products to customers on time.
“We’ve moved quickly to establish this network and are now getting on with the job of supporting our exporters to get their products flowing again,” Mr Birmingham said.
“With a network of some of the world’s largest airlines and most reputable freight forwarders in place, we’re injecting more reliability into the system that will also help our smaller exporters to aggregate their freight into volumes so they don’t miss out on export opportunities.”
Federal Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud, said this was about supporting agricultural and fisheries exporters who had been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis.
“We’re backing our farmers and fishers by making sure they can get more of their high-quality product into overseas markets,” Mr Littleproud said.
“This is about reducing the barriers our agricultural and fisheries exporters face, so they can get back to focusing on producing the best and highest-quality product in the world.”