25 March, 2020
This communique is to provide you a summary on SRA’s industry support and response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
SRA is working to minimise the disruption to industry as we navigate these uncertain and challenging times. We are planning for several scenarios; including a scenario that involves a government-imposed lock-down of our staff.
Due to the severe tightening of travel across Australia, and the growing requirement to allow people to work from home where possible, SRA is currently finalising plans to ensure that, to the extent possible, we safeguard critical industry activities in the event that labour availability becomes an issue.
SRA’s current response
SRA has enacted business processes to reinforce physical-distancing principles with our staff along with other measures to lessen the risk associated with COVID-19.
We are working with health advice and government restrictions to ensure the health and safety of our staff and broader industry; and to ensure SRA can continue to deliver research, development and adoption activities and outcomes for the Australian sugarcane industry.
Many of SRA’s people are already working remotely, and we are continuing with plans that involve further remote-working. We are planning for situations where we may have staff impacted by illness or unable to come to work due to quarantine or self-isolation.
SRA has also been in regular contact with productivity services organisations across the industry, especially where we share premises. We continue to work together to minimise the risk to our staff and industry.
In addition, SRA is in regular contact with our external research providers regarding milestones and specific activities within research projects. We are also working with our external funding providers and government partners to keep them informed of how SRA is managing our response to the pandemic.
What this means for Industry
Plant Breeding, Laboratory Services, and Biosecurity
SRA has an important role in the sugar industry supply chain and its ongoing viability. Our role is particularly critical around the provision of plant breeding (varieties) and clean planting material, quarantine, biosecurity, and laboratory services (such as ratoon stunting disease and Pachymetra testing). Therefore, SRA is working closely with CANEGROWERS, who is coordinating an industry response to the pandemic. Together we are working hard to ensure these services can continue over the coming months because of their long-term importance to the industry.
We understand that work must continue, albeit in a different way. SRA is observing the social-distancing requirements determined by government. This means that we will have more of our people working at home; with a reduced number of staff working in our office locations. If you have questions or need to contact SRA, we ask that you phone your nearest office. In the interest of physical-distancing, it is our preference to communicate with you via phone or email.
SRA is employing these measures consistently across all our locations. Whilst we understand the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases regionally is less than in Brisbane or other metropolitan areas, it is equally important that we protect regional and metropolitan staff.
In addition, if you are displaying any symptoms associated with COVID-19, have been in contact with a confirmed case, or have been overseas in the last two weeks, then we respectfully ask that you not visit an SRA site or meet with our staff.
As previously advised in our communications, major events such as the SRA grower updates have been postponed until further notice. Some of our upcoming meetings and seminars are shifting to an online (video-conference) format, and we will be in touch with the relevant stakeholders regarding these arrangements.
This is a rapidly changing situation and SRA will continue to assess the situation and advise you of any further changes.