Australia will arrange rescue flights for lobsters, shellfish, and other seafood, to ease the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy. No, it's not that kind of rescue: they're going to be eaten, hopefully.
Seafood is a export industry Down Under, worth over a billion dollars in local currency as lobster and trout are flown out for sale, primarily to China and the rest of Asia. Trouble is, with international flights at lower-than-usual levels amid the virus outbreak, finding lobster-lifters to get the food out into the region is not easy if not impossible.
In other words, the seafood isn't winging its way to buyers outside Oz, and that's a shame.
Tourists are right now making a meal of the local product as a highlight of their visit, but they're not a viable market at present. Someone needs to lob the caught critters out of the country.
Enter the Australian government with an AU$110m (US$67m, £54m) program to run up to 40 chartered rescue flights for agriculture and fisheries exporters, so they can get goods to market during the coronavirus crisis. Seafood flights have already reportedly started between Hong Kong and Cairns. A hoped-for bonus is that return flights could bring much-needed medical supplies to Australia.
“This will help restore key freight routes for our farmers until commercial capacity can be restored again,” deputy PM and transport minister Michael McCormack said today. “Everything we are doing as a Government in response to this pandemic is focused on saving lives and saving livelihoods and we know our agriculture industry is key to this.”
The investment is hoped to protect local jobs at a time Australia's government has announced around $200bn of stimulus measures to cope with the virus-related economic slowdown – that's about 30 percent of typical annual Oz government spending.
“Necessary public health restrictions are already placing massive pressure on business viability and job security," said trade minister Simon Birmingham.
"We can’t afford for our farmers, fishers and exporters to be under similar pressure just because they can’t get their goods onto a plane." ®