Vic lockdown hurting regional areas

2nd June 2021 | Eativity editors

AUSVEG, the peak industry body for the Australian vegetable industry, is calling on the Victorian state government to ease restrictions on COVID-free regional Victorian communities – communities that are already suffering greatly because of the latest state-wide lockdown and the uncertainty around when restrictions will ease.

The decision to apply the lockdown to the entire state of Victoria, including regional and border communities that don’t have any positive COVID cases, has severely impacted regional economies, including vegetable producers that grow perishable products and those that supply the food service sector, including cafes, bars, restaurants and clubs.

Victoria is Australia’s largest producer of mushrooms, asparagus and broccoli.

AUSVEG Chair and Gippsland vegetable grower Bill Bulmer says while the industry agrees that protecting the health of the public and Victoria’s vulnerable communities is paramount, there needs to be acknowledgment that the state-wide lockdown is unduly impacting the health and wellbeing of Victorian regional communities and their economies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant hardship on our primary producers and our regional communities, with worker shortages, reduced tourism revenue and the personal toll from repeated lockdowns weighing heavily on every regional and rural community,” Bulmer says. “No one wants to jeopardise the health of region’s most vulnerable people, but our regional and rural communities have been hyper-vigilant in implementing COVID-safe practices to stay safe and healthy.

“Our regions have done what they have been asked to do and more to protect Victoria from COVID-19. It is utterly disheartening that regional communities that are COVID-free and hundreds of kilometres from the nearest COVID-positive case stemming from the latest Melbourne outbreak continue to suffer from state-wide lockdowns.”

Victorian fresh food producers are once again wondering if their crops will go to waste.

Bulmer says the Victorian vegetable industry will be more heavily impacted by the lockdown the longer it lasts, and as long as it continues to be state-wide, producers of perishable products and those that supply the food service sector with be particularly disadvantaged.

“The last 18 months have been hard on all Victorians, including those in regional areas,” he says. “No one wants to see widespread COVID-19 infections, but if we can ease the struggle on regional Victorian communities that are not impacted by the current outbreak through more targeted, efficient measures, then surely we owe it to those communities to do so.”