THE INTERNATIONAL Freight Assistance Mechanism has been extended to 30 September.

IFAM is a temporary scheme that provides funding to keep international air freight flowing into and out of Australia in response to issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the continuation of the scheme, along with several other measures, saying it would support the Australian economy’s continuing recovery.

Mr Morrison said the economy had recovered 85% of its fall from COVID-19 and the next step in the government’s National Economic Recovery Plan would target the businesses, workers and regions “still doing it tough”.

IFAM was established in April last year with $110 million in funding; it got further cash injections in July and October. IFAM’s total committed funds now total $699 million to the end of June this year.

In a fact sheet on the scheme, Austrade said eligibility for products supported by IFAM is determined by a set of principles rather than a list of commodities.

“Products that are eligible are: Australian made or produced, high-value, time-sensitive, reliant on air-freight (for example, due to perishability) or otherwise deemed to be in the national interest,” the fact sheet reads.

Despite IFAM, air freight is still expensive and capacity is tight – total international flights fell from 18,934 in December 2019 to 3936 in December 2020 – a decrease of nearly 80%. Responding to this market, a Western Australian freight forwarder, Tigers International Solutions, launched an initiative whereby exporters can share space on reefer containers going by sea from WA to Singapore.