The Australian government has announced a new A$110m support package, aimed at easing some of the pressure fresh produce exporters have experienced as a result of widespread border closures and the grounding of airfreight services due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Flights departing Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth will be coordinated in order to deliver fresh produce to key markets including China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
Much needed medical supplies and medicines will be imported via returning flights as part of the programme.
The Australian government has appointed former Toll Holdings managing director and former Linfox chief executive Michael Byrne as its international freight coordinator to oversee the programme. He will work with airlines and exporters.
"Necessary public health restrictions are already placing massive pressure on business viability and job security," said Australian Senator, Simon Birmingham.
"We can't afford for our farmers, fishers and exporters to be under similar pressure just because they can't get their goods onto a plane.
"When these flights return to Australia there will be capacity for them to transport vital medical supplies, medicines and equipment, which will be critical to the ongoing health response, he added.
Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Jennie Franceschi said her export business, sourcing fresh fruit and vegetables from around Australia to send to customers overseas, mainly Asia, had ground to a halt.
She said the Government freight assistance would be an important tool to help secure ongoing trade.
"By keeping Australian exporters exporting and keeping our produce out there, what it will do is secure the position for Australia in those countries," she said.
"Because if other countries move in, then we've got to try and win it back, which is hard slog."