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Australia: Air freight to open up new markets

Australia's industry representative for vegetable and potato growers, Michael Coote, believes the sector can continue to grow its produce with confidence. He postulated this following a $110 million International Freight Assistance Mechanism investment by the Federal government.

With Australia's vegetable exports by both sea and air significantly impacted by COVID-19, AusVeg national manager export development Coote said the announcement had been welcomed by the nation's vegetable growers.

"Additional planes over the next six months in cities including Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane will give our growers another channel to move their produce into different markets," Mr Coote told Farm Weekly.

With about 90 per cent of Australia's airfreight capacity lost since COVID-19 and prices for remaining air freight space dramatically increased, vegetablesWA chief executive officer John Shannon said most of the available air freight capacity had been taken up by more premium food products, including seafood and meat.

While higher prices due to freight costs had reduced demand for some products in international markets, he said demand remained for products that were a staple part of diets.

"There has been an increase of 200-400pc in airfreight costs," Mr Shannon said. "For example, freight for Singapore and Malaysia is usually about $1.15-$1.50 per kilogram and that has increased to $2.50-$4/kg, while freight to the Middle East is now at $5-7/kg."

Mr Coote said the mechanism set up by the Federal government was intended to cover the majority of costs exporters would need to pay for air freight.

"We're hopeful that it will get per kilo down to similar rates that exporters were paying pre-covid, however that is yet to be determined," he said.

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