Seafood industry buoyed by Federal support

Seafood Industry Australia (SIA) has welcomed the Federal Government’s $110 million International Freight Assistance announcement.

“We’d like to thank the Federal Government for helping to keep Aussie jobs and Aussie seafood on the table,” SIA CEO Jane Lovell said. “The Australian seafood industry has been in turmoil since orders to China evaporated on 24 January. We asked the Federal Government for financial support and coordination assistance to reopen export markets; today we can tick that box.

“Seafood Industry Australia was created for moments like this. As the voice of the Australian seafood industry we asked our members what their needs were, how we could keep the industry afloat, and we took that message to Governments right around the country.”

The assistance will help the Australian seafood industry restart exports to global markets, including China. This means not only securing Australian businesses and jobs in the seafood industry, but further downstream in processing, freight and beyond, according to Lovell.

“For the Aussie seafood businesses who have effectively been without an income for nine weeks, for their employees, and for their families this marks the beginning of a return to normal. There’s no better stimulus than getting back to work. We have orders waiting, and we now have a way to confidently go fishing to fill those orders,” she said.

“We asked for government fees and charges to be waived, and the Federal Government heard that request and has waived fisheries management levies under the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, saving our industry more than $10 million this year. This waiver is welcome news for our struggling industry and will provide a slight reprieve to many.

“We look forward to welcoming more good news over the coming weeks as other states assist industry by waiving their fees and charges. We understand there are many challenges for Governments across the country right now, but as an essential service, who provide more than one billion meals to families here and overseas, it is critical that we’re able to keep working.

“We have worked closely with the Federal Government, and particularly Assistant Minister Jonathon Duniam and his office. We thank John and Danielle for responding to our calls for help – and we look forward to continuing to work with them to deliver on challenges we continue to face. We’d also like to acknowledge the hard work of Seafood Trade Advisory Group’s (STAG) Nathan Maxwell and Jayne Gallagher.”

Government $130bn stimulus package for workers

Businesses that have lost 30 per cent or more of their turnover can apply for the new stimulus package announced by the federal government on Monday.

Businesses will be subsidised up to $1,500 a fortnight per worker to keep staff employed rather than joining the queues at Centrelink.

The subsidies will last for six months, with full-time, part-time and casual workers who have been with their employer for at least 12 months eligible. Sole traders are also included in the package.

Workers that have been stood down since March 1 will be eligible, with payments beginning in the first week of May and will be backdated until March 30.

With support from various banking institutions, the federal government has set aside $320 billion to deal with the fallout from the coronavirus.

The food and beverage industry is in a good position with production ramping up as supplies grow short in some categories. The acting CEO of the Australian Food & Grocery Council, Dr Geoffrey Annison, said the industry is working to make the supply chain stays open.

“International supply chain interruptions are likely in the current environment and the AFGC is working with key stakeholders, including suppliers and government, to ensure these are mitigated as much as possible,” he said. “Their impact at the consumer level is anticipated to be negligible.”



Federal government stimulus package for SMEs including F&B sector

The Morrison Government has announced a $17.6 billion economic plan to keep Australians in jobs, keep businesses in business and support households and the Australian economy as the world deals with the challenges posed by the spread of the coronavirus. The package is aimed mainly at SMEs, with a large number of such enterprises being in the food and beverage industry.

The package has four parts:

  • Supporting business investment.
  • Providing cash flow assistance to help small and medium sized business to stay in business and keep their employees in jobs.
  • Targeted support for the most severely affected sectors, regions and communities.
  • Household stimulus payments that will benefit the wider economy.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said as part of the plan up to 6.5 million individuals and 3.5 million businesses would be directly supported by the package.

“Just as we have acted decisively to protect the health of the Australian people, based on the best evidence and medical advice, our support package responds to the economic challenges presented by this pandemic in a timely, proportionate and targeted way,” he said.

“Australia is not immune to the global coronavirus challenge but we have already taken steps to prepare for this looming international economic crisis.

“The economy needs temporary help right now to bounce back better so the livelihoods of all Australians are protected.”

Delivering support for business investment

  • $700 million to increase the instant asset write off threshold from $30,000 to $150,000 and expand access to include businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million) until 30 June 2020. For example, assets that may be able to be immediately written off are a concrete tank for a builder, a tractor for a farming business, and a truck for a delivery business.
  • $3.2 billion to back business investment by providing a time limited 15 month investment incentive (through to 30 June 2021) to support business investment and economic growth over the short term, by accelerating depreciation deductions. Businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million will be able to deduct an additional 50 per cent of the asset cost in the year of purchase.

These measures start today and will support over 3.5 million businesses (over 99 per cent of businesses) employing more than 9.7 million employees or three in every four workers. The measures are designed to support business sticking with investment they had planned, and encouraging them to bring investment forward to support economic growth over the short term.

Cash flow assistance for businesses

  • $6.7 billion to Boost Cash Flow for Employers by up to $25,000 with a minimum payment of $2,000 for eligible small and medium-sized businesses. The payment will provide cash flow support to businesses with a turnover of less than $50 million that employ staff, between 1 January 2020 and 30 June 2020. The payment will be tax free. This measure will benefit around 690,000 businesses employing around 7.8 million people. Businesses will receive payments of 50 per cent of their Business Activity Statements or Instalment Activity Statement from 28 April with refunds to then be paid within 14 days.
  • $1.3 billion to support small businesses to support the jobs of around 120,000 apprentices and trainees. Eligible employers can apply for a wage subsidy of 50 per cent of the apprentice’s or trainee’s wage for up to 9 months from 1 January 2020 to 30 September 2020. Where a small business is not able to retain an apprentice, the subsidy will be available to a new employer that employs that apprentice.

Stimulus payments to households to support growth

  • $4.8 billion to provide a one-off $750 stimulus payment to pensioners, social security, veteran and other income support recipients and eligible concession card holders. Around half of those that will benefit are pensioners. The payment will be tax free and will not count as income for Social Security, Farm Household Allowance and Veteran payments. There will be one payment per eligible recipient. If a person qualifies for the one off payment in multiple ways, they will only receive one payment.

Payments will be from 31 March 2020 on a progressive basis, with over 90 per cent of payments expected to be made by mid-April.

Assistance for severely-affected regions

  • $1 billion to support those sectors, regions and communities that have been disproportionately affected by the economic impacts of the Coronavirus, including those heavily reliant on industries such as tourism, agriculture and education. This will include the waiver of fees and charges for tourism businesses that operate in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Commonwealth National Parks. It will also include additional assistance to help businesses identify alternative export markets or supply chains. Targeted measures will also be developed to further promote domestic tourism. Further plans and measures to support recovery will be designed and delivered in partnership with the affected industries and communities.

The Government is also offering administrative relief for certain tax obligations, including deferring tax payments up to four months. This is similar to relief provided following the bushfires for taxpayers affected by the coronavirus, on a case-by-case basis.  The ATO will set up a temporary shop front in Cairns within the next few weeks with dedicated staff specialising in assisting small business. In addition, the ATO will consider ways to enhance its presence in other significantly affected regions to make it easier for people to apply for relief, including considering further temporary shop fronts and face-to-face options.


Dried vine fruits industry welcomes funding

Murray River Organics (MRO) has welcomed almost $400,000 in Federal Government funding to advance the growth of the dried vine fruits industry across Sunraysia, enhancing its own expansion plans for the region in partnership with its growers.

Two of MRO’s properties in Colignan and in Merbein will be part of the Dried Fruits Australia (DFA) project to conduct demonstrations of crop production improvements.

As the largest dried fruit grower in the Sunraysia region with over 1100 hectares planted, MRO said the three-year project would provide valuable additional funding to improve the capacity of dried vine fruit growers in achieving higher yields and profitability.

Murray River Organics’ chief executive, Valentina Tripp, said this year’s water issues highlighted the need for investment in improved irrigation and water management.

“We are delighted that MRO will be supporting DFA with this important project. It underscores our commitment to investment in research and development that will enhance our growers’ abilities to continue to innovate with new techniques, products and farming systems

“Australia has the best dried vine fruit in the world and it is crucial that we continue to invest in the industry as it will be a core driver of our future growth and to success in international markets. That means exploring innovative ag-tech systems, including irrigation infrastructure and on-farm practices.

“MRO’s investment in the region with its growers as well as its down stream processing-to-export plant is about creation of high value-added products that will keep our regions and communities strong and profit-able long into the future.”

MRO has implemented a number of investment initiatives in recent months, with a growth plan for its farming properties to strengthen vines and improve yields over the next 2 to 3 years. A $1.6 million irrigation infrastructure program for Colignan has been completed.