National Farmers' Federation

Farmers hurt by MUA’s Port Botany stunt

Farmers’ recovery from drought and COVID-19 is under threat from ongoing industrial action by the MUA at Port Botany, with the capacity of the Patrick terminal cut by 40 per cent in the past week.

“On the road to recovery from years of drought, farmers are perfectly placed to help get this country back on track, what we certainly don’t need now is the breakdown of operations at Port Botany,” NFF CEO Tony Mahar said.

Port Botany is critical for getting products like red meat, pork, grain, wool and cotton to overseas markets.

Mr Mahar said the grounding of passenger flights had made farmers far more reliant on shipping for perishable products.

“More than ever, farmers need Port Botany running smoothly. Instead, the MUA’s latest stunt has seen vessels delayed by up to 18 days and surcharges pile up.

“Right now, the parties need to demonstrate common sense and think about the bigger picture.

“The MUA’s antics are putting Australian agriculture’s international customer relationships at risk, and it could pull the rug out from under Australia’s economic recovery.”

Mr Mahar said congestion had long been a costly issue at Port Botany.

“This industrial action has made congestion exponentially worse. The congestion surcharges put in place by shipping companies equate to $17 per tonne of grain and $5 per bale of cotton.

“This essentially means that up to 5% of the final price for these goods is being frittered away on a situation that should never have eventuated.

“With 30-35% of the final price of agricultural commodities already going to freight and logistics, an additional 5% of cost is a bitter pill to swallow for farmers.”

Mr Mahar said the impacts of a breakdown of operations at Port Botany could have impacts on farmers beyond the cost of congestion surcharges, restricting farmers’ access to market, and damaging Australia’s reputation as a reliable supplier.

“With delays now pushing to 20 days and beyond, this situation risks doing irreparable damage to our international reputation as a reliable supplier of agricultural commodities.

“Some shipping lines are now bypassing Port Botany and redirecting freight to alternate ports in Victoria and Queensland.

“COVID-19 restrictions have made interstate freight movement significantly more challenging. Having to organise landside interstate freight due to the calamity at Port Botany is another cost and headache that farmers simply do not need.”

“Farmers are the end-users of port services and we have no direct involvement in this industrial action. What we ask for is that state and federal governments, and parties to this dispute, resolve the matter without putting the whole agricultural supply chain in jeopardy.

“We want to farm and sell our produce to our customers; we do not want to be pawns in an industrial dispute,” Mr Mahar said.

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