#COVID-19 Pauline Hanson says vegetable farmers are an essential service

ESSNTIAL: Pauline Hanson says vegetable growers need a guarantee they can continue to operate through government restrictions.
ESSNTIAL: Pauline Hanson says vegetable growers need a guarantee they can continue to operate through government restrictions.

ONE Nation leader Pauline Hanson is backing plans to safeguard vegetable farming during the coronavirus crisis.

Federal MP Scott Buchholz said the Australian government recognised the importance of Scenic Rim farming industries.

"Businesses such as farming and food production are not impacted by the announcements made by the Prime Minister on March 22 and 24 as a result of National Cabinet deliberations," he said.

"I am in regular contact with the industry bodies, I've been speaking with local growers and getting their feedback and listening to what is happening on the ground, so we can act proportionately and quickly."

AusVeg, which represents vegetable and potato growers, has called for the government to declare the food growing industry and its supply chain as "essential services", to ensure no fatal disruptions.

"Farmers are a backbone to Australia, even more so now, and we cannot risk any disruption to their schedules, otherwise we'll potentially miss out on a whole season of crops," Senator Hanson said.

"They need surety that their seed, fertiliser, skilled staff and specialised equipment are not held up in port or stuck at a closed border, because any delays could fatally impact the vital production of food during this crisis.

"Now more than ever we need food security, we need to learn from our errors of the past, and we need to invest domestically, and encourage and support food production in Australia."

AusVeg said it wanted the declaration to ensure access to the necessary transport of produce to market; open ports and prioritisation of import of seed, fertilisers and packaging equipment to aid production; prioritised movement of skilled employees through lockdowns; access to appropriate safety procedures, processes and responses, and vital equipment to ensure food production does not stop in Australia.

The organisation has also called for support from the federal government to extend visas for workers under the Seasonal Worker Programme and Working Holiday Makers if they continue to work in agriculture.

Mr Buchholz said the government was aware of the significance of freight transport and the workforce to the horticultural and agricultural sector in Australia, especially at this time and particularly in areas like the Scenic Rim.

"I've spoken with a number of growers about their concerns to ensure they are able to continue operations - pick produce and transport the produce that ultimately ends up on our tables," he said.

"We understand the immediate concerns of availability of workforce and are working to ensure we implement procedures to make sure we can keep trucks on the road and food on the table."