How has the coronavirus outbreak affected MLA programs and the wider red meat and livestock industry? Here, Managing Director Jason Strong outlines some of the initial impacts of COVID-19.
So far, what have been the most significant impacts of COVID-19 on the Australian red meat and livestock industry?
Disruption to the industry has been created by situations such as panic buying, which have significantly impacted managing supplies and inventories for red meat.
Sales for February and March were higher than they were over the Christmas period – traditionally the largest sales period of the year – so the normal flow of products through the supply chain has been significantly disrupted.
What impact will COVID-19 have on MLA’s ability to deliver research and marketing services on behalf of levy payers?
Many of our projects’ processes are continuing as normal, but a lot of those projects that require us and our stakeholders to move around are now restricted.
We’re currently in the process of assessing the impact that COVID-19 will have on our projects, budget and KPIs in our quarterly review.
What MLA services have been most impacted by COVID-19?
Three areas have been most impacted for us.
The first is international markets, where travel is now limited and many of our activities involving face-to-face engagement with stakeholders and red meat customers are no longer happening. We’re reviewing our marketing campaigns and, in some cases, turning to more heavily rely on digital platforms to reach consumers.
Secondly, our Livestock Market Reporting service has been impacted as we no longer have reporters in saleyards, so we can’t regularly produce our usual market indicators and we are reporting on markets post-sale.
The third impact is on the domestic market. Our major domestic marketing campaign this year involving our Olympics/Paralympics partnership has been pushed to 2021, so we’ve realigned that program to the new dates but also redirected attention to supporting our foodservice and retail sectors, both of which have been hit by significant shifts in consumer trends.
How will MLA communicate with its levy payers throughout this pandemic?
Wherever possible, we’ve converted events and activities to online resources such as webinars or postponed them. We’re avoiding cancelling events as much as possible so when social distancing measures have been relaxed, these events can proceed.
Producers can also stay up to date on the latest MLA and market activity via our weekly Friday Feedback and Prices & Markets e-newsletters, social media (Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn), or our website.
How have working conditions changed for MLA employees?
We’ve now closed all of our offices globally except for China (which reopened a month ago), so communications and engagement are happening virtually as our staff work from home while practicing social distancing.
What about you personally – how are you going with managing MLA from your home office?
Staying engaged with the organisation has been the challenge as we’re spread across so many different locations. As a leader in the business, a lot of my responsibility involves employee welfare and engagement – not being able to see anyone in person is difficult, so I’ve had to shift my approach by having regular check-ins with my team and using video conferencing. All things considered, it’s going well so far.