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Positive Attitude Minimises Agricultural Sector COVID Losses

A new study* has found a strong ‘can do’ attitude and cooperative spirit in the agricultural industries were significant factors in minimising losses and uncertainties during the COVID restrictions last year in New Zealand and Australia.

Co-authored by Lincoln University’s Dr Lei Cong, with contributors from a number of institutions including AgResearch, The University of Queensland, NZ Institute of Economic Research, and Plant and Food Research, it measures the immediate impacts of COVID-19 control measures to June 2020 on the agri-food systems of Australia and New Zealand and how resilient those systems were.

It found the effects on both countries were broadly similar, and there were relatively minor economic impacts across the surveyed industries.

It stated the high level of ingenuity in the rural communities, both in Australia and New Zealand, was likely a key element of their resilience and capacity to overcome movement restrictions and the disruption of value chains.

Restrictions and new rules of engagement and interaction were adopted rapidly as “people accepted a new reality and adapted to it”.

The industry assimilated the many ‘unmanageable disruptions’, such as the loss or disruption to export markets and short supply of inputs. This created impetus for diversifying markets and strengthened business cases for value-adding and local manufacturing.

It suggested the resilience emerged from a combination of the industries having relatively high technology, being well connected/networked and having some experience of prior shocks, and being well supported, primarily logistically, by their governments.

“Agricultural producers in Australia and New Zealand are well organised and business-oriented, and thus had the right structures and sufficient financial backing to manage through a pandemic. Product demand was maintained domestically due to income support, while export markets remained fairly constant.”

It also noted some important lessons such as the need to upskill young people in rural areas and control or reverse the negative rural migration, the need to diversify export markets, and the need to plan for the ‘unplannable’ to deal with the next ‘Black Swan’ event.

The researchers conducted 44 interviews and had 321 responses to a survey with similar numbers of responses from non-farmers across the two countries, and about twice as many responses from farmers in New Zealand than in Australia.

*https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308521X20308866#!Resilience achieved via multiple compensating subsystems: The immediate impacts of COVID-19 control measures on the agri-food systems of Australia and New Zealand\\

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