THE federal government announced it would continue funding the International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) with an additional $260.9 million.

IFAM was established in April last year with $110 million in initial funding to help maintain air-cargo links between Australia and the world during the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since it was established, IFAM has been extended several times. The government has now provided $1.04 billion to support Australian exporters through the scheme.

Infrastructure and transport minister Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the extension to IFAM meant Australian businesses had the continued certainty of being able to reach important markets while they adjusted to the world’s new-look supply chains.

“IFAM has been a lifeline for thousands of Australian farmers, fishers and primary producers, mostly in regional Australia,” he said.

“A key feature of IFAM has been the logistical and administrative support for international freight movements by aggregating cargo loads, negotiating with airlines and collaborating with partner state and territory governments to facilitate clearances and improve transparency of freight costs during the pandemic.”

Trade minister Dan Tehan said IFAM, a temporary, emergency measure, had helped exporters and importers stay connected to existing clients through an incredibly challenging period, and maintained business confidence.

“Our government’s support for Australian producers has ensured they have maintained their reputation as high-quality, reliable suppliers,” Mr Tehan said.

“Australia is a trading nation and trade creates jobs, drives innovation and underpins our economic growth. The program has been critical to ensuring the flow of vital imports such as medical supplies and other essential items as Australia continues its economic recovery.”

Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said the additional funding was a major win for Australian farmers.

“We’re backing our farmers by making sure they can continue to get more of their high-quality product into overseas markets,” Mr Littleproud said.

“Keeping our farmers connected with their established international customers helps keep their operations going and maintains their reputation as a reliable supplier of top-quality product.”

The government said IFAM has ensured a wide variety of Australian produce has reached its international customers, such as:

  • cheese from New South Wales,
  • asparagus from Victoria,
  • tropical rock lobster from Queensland,
  • native flowers from Western Australia,
  • abalone from South Australia,
  • oysters from Tasmania and
  • mangoes from Northern Territory.

The government said IFAM has already

  • supported 35,000 jobs and 120,000 jobs indirectly reliant on airfreight;
  • reconnected nine Australian ports to 58 international destinations since taking flight on 1 April 2020; and
  • supported more than 13,000 flights.