Confusion over 'essential' machinery

Tractor Machinery Association is seeking answers on essential services as restrictions tighten

Coronavirus
ESSENTIAL SERVICES: The Tractor and Machinery Association wants clarification that parts, repair and service will be classified as essential services as restrictions across Australia tighten due to COVID-19.

ESSENTIAL SERVICES: The Tractor and Machinery Association wants clarification that parts, repair and service will be classified as essential services as restrictions across Australia tighten due to COVID-19.

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The Tractor Machinery Association is seeking answers on what is considered an essential service as restrictions tighten.

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Supply of critical machinery parts and breakdown repairs are services any farmer would deem essential to their business, however with little detail emerging from governments the peak machinery body is questioning which parts of the business can remain open as restrictions tighten.

With the rules of engagement changing daily, the agricultural sector is seeking clarification around essential supply chain definitions and potential changes they need to make to their businesses.

Tractor and Machinery Association executive director Gary Northover said the peak body had written to state and federal governments and was working with National Farmers Federation to seek clarification around machinery's role in the agricultural supply chain.

"There are plenty of statements being made about agriculture as an essential service, including logistics and support services," he said.

"What we haven't seen is a clear announcement that includes the supply of machines, parts and servicing."

Mr Northover said more detail was required so companies could make decisions and implement changes.

"It depends whether your business as a whole regarded as essential, or only parts," he said.

"We would like instruction to be clearer, can a dealership remain open even if on that particular day it isn't working on a farmers site.

"It would help to know what the requirements are to remain open.

"That is being spelt out in New Zealand, they are asking business to outline their strategies for social distancing and what to do in the event of symptoms being developed."

Mr Northover said there was even confusion about what services were considered part of the agricultural supply chain, whether it precluded company's without direct grower interaction.

"We don't know if it covers companies where people make spray equipment or attachments who have orders customers have placed with them.

"They may come under manufacturing and assembly rather than the agricultural supply chain."

Mr Northover said as yet confusion about crossing rules between states was not having a massive impact, but that could change.

"I don't believe people are being held at the borders and told to quarantine because the cross between states to do a machine repair," he said.

"But it is making us nervous as we move into the next stage of lock down, particularly when you look at other countries and what is being considered essential."

Mr Northover said agricultural machinery companies were taking the protection of their staff seriously, implementing segregation protocols and ensuring staff who could work from home did so.

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