Article By Jennifer Duke, published by The Age, April 16 2020

Three Boeing 787 Dreamliners carrying 45 tonnes of lamb meat apiece will leave Melbourne for Abu Dhabi this week in a sign agricultural trade is getting back on the front foot.

The first of the flights containing millions of dollars of meat from Warrnambool’s Midfield Meat International will take off on Thursday, with more to follow under the federal government’s $110 million push to boost food exports by funding emergency flights.

Millions of dollars of lamb meat will leave Melbourne for the Middle East as government-funded air freight begins.

About 90 per cent of the red meat industry’s chilled goods are transported offshore, much of it to China, Japan and the Middle East. Products like seafood and meat are often sent as cargo on passenger planes. But with airlines cancelling commercial flights due to coronavirus travel restrictions, many producers are finding it too expensive to charter flights themselves.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said it had been hard for red meat producers to get their products offshore in recent months and these flights were the first of 200 planned to leave for key trading regions, including China.

“With demand for Australian agricultural products like our lamb still strong, helping to support flights will allow our producers to continue to meet that demand,” Mr Birmingham said.

“Securing these flights means our farmers can get their product back into our key export markets so we can keep more Australians in jobs and generate extra export dollars.”

Australia exported $440 million of red meat through air freight in 2019, of which half was chilled lamb sent to the Middle East.

The government last month announced more than $800 million of seafood would be flown to Asia and the Middle East on emergency freight flights under the package.


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