*Updated 8 April 2020
Austrade is open for business and our network of 1,100 staff is committed to helping you through this time.
As part of ‘Team Australia’, Austrade is working closely with the network of government departments and industry agencies to help Australian businesses overcome complex and fast-evolving COVID-19–related challenges.
This site provides updates on markets and logistics, and links through to the Government’s extensive business support programs.
Support for businesses impacted by Coronavirus
On 1 April, the Australian Government announced measures to help secure freight access for Australian agriculture and fisheries exporters.
The new $110 million International Freight Assistance Mechanism will assist Australia’s agricultural and fisheries sector by helping them export their high-quality produce into key overseas markets, with return flights bringing back vital medical supplies, medicines and equipment.
Exporters wishing to access the mechanism can register their interest or call the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment on (02) 6272 2444.
On 1 April, the Government also announced increased funding for the Export Market Development Grant (EMDG). Funding for the scheme will increase by $49.8 million in the 2019-20 financial year, allowing exporters and tourism businesses to get additional reimbursements for costs incurred in marketing their products and services around the world.
This supplements the additional $60 million already committed by the Government, and brings EMDG funding to its highest level in more than 20 years at $207.7 million for the 2019-20 financial year.
For details about the full range of programs the Australian Government has launched in support for Australian businesses go to business.gov.au
Latest insights from Austrade
8 April 2020
Ports, aviation, transport and logistics
- There are now only 108 international passenger flights into China per week under new restrictions to minimise the risk of COVID-19 cases entering the country.
- The number of weekly international cargo flights has increased to 1,195 (up 28.5% in the past week and 17.85% compared to pre-COVID-19 levels).
- The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) is encouraging passenger airlines to use their aircraft for freight-only flights. In the past week, CACC has approved 102 freight-only flights on existing passenger routes – including daily flights to Australia by China Southern from Guangzhou and China Eastern from Shanghai.
- The Ministry of Transport has issued stricter guidelines for international cargo ships after five crew members of the super-freighter Gjertrud Maersk tested positive for COVID-19. Crew will now not be allowed to disembark from their ships unless the Ministry gives them prior approval. Currently, around 500 ships carrying 7,000 crew arrive in China’s 128 ports daily.
- Rail transportation is being used as an alternative to air and sea freight, particularly out of Europe. China National Railway Group reported that the ‘China Railway Express’ is maintaining freight connections between China and European countries.
- Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao is expanding its direct-to-customer selling platform for bargain-seeking consumers due to competition with other platforms such as Pinduoduo.
- Taobao’s new Taobao Special Offer Edition app allows buyers to purchase unbranded items like electronics and home appliances directly from manufacturers. The app was the most downloaded free app on Apple’s China App Store following its release.
- In response to store closures worldwide, more of the world’s luxury brands are establishing shops on China’s e-commerce platform TMALL for specific categories and labels.
- The skincare and beauty sector is expected to rebound quickly. Many brands are focusing on ‘health’ and ‘wellbeing’ as their core message, and on products that suggest a healthy lifestyle, with beauty a part of that lifestyle. Strong anecdotal evidence suggests the growth in online sales will continue. In 2019, online sales accounted for 30% of sales by value for skincare and 38% for colour cosmetics. Last year, the value of China’s beauty, wellbeing and personal care sector was estimated at around US$66 billion.
New infrastructure and technology
- China’s COVID-19 stimulus spending on infrastructure is projected to be around RMB 3.5 trillion in 2020 (around 3.5% of GDP). Investment has previously been in transport networks (high-speed rail and roads), power production and industrial capacity.
- New infrastructure investment will focus on 5G, ultra-high-voltage cables, intercity high-speed railway, electric vehicle charging stations, big data centres, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT).
- China’s Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) forecasts that 5G infrastructure investment will reach RMB 1.2 trillion over the next five years. More than 50% of the world’s 5G base stations are in China, and CAICT forecasts 600,000 more stations will be built by the end of 2020.
- China’s State Grid will invest more than RMB 400 billion in power grid construction for ultra-high-voltage grids (UHV) and interprovincial electricity projects. Five UHV alternating current projects will commence between March and December 2020.
- The central government will continue to enhance investment into strategic and significant infrastructure projects. This includes constructing and expanding the intercity rail network to link metropolitan areas to remote regions, bringing higher levels of economic development to those areas and benefitting regional commuters.
- The new intercity rail network is expected to test IoT-driven technologies, including automated vehicles, new battery and energy storage, and artificial intelligence.
Agriculture and food
- Local importers and distributors estimate that Australian seafood imports were around 10–20% of 2019 volumes in January/February 2020. There has been some growth from mid-March due to stock depletion and the gradual recovery of restaurant and in-house dining. Other countries (Canada, New Zealand, US) all report low volumes of exports due to soft demand, with logistical challenges for live product.
- During the pandemic, some dairy suppliers saw strong demand, although dairy exporters had to adapt their logistics business model, due to reduced capacity and higher airfreight costs.
- Demand for wine remains very soft, especially at the premium end. Wine suppliers estimate consumption for Q1 2020 is at 30% of normal levels, although the consumption rate is slowly recovering. Current sales are estimated to be around 25% of normal levels for bars, 50% for hotels and restaurants and 75% for direct premises, such as supermarkets. There has been growth in e-commerce channels.
- According to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, around 56,000 tons of beef were exported in the first three months of 2020, compared with nearly 52,000 tons for the same period last year – a 7.7% increase by volume.
- Just over 26,000 tons of sheep meat were exported to China in Q1 2020, a 17% decrease by volume compared with 31,000 tons for the same period last year.
- According to China’s Ministry of Commerce, as of 4 April 2020, 54 countries and three international organisations have signed medical and PPE procurement contracts with Chinese enterprises. More agreements are expected to be signed with another 74 nations and 10 international organisations in the near future.
6 April 2020
Health services across Europe are racing to expand health services capacity. The two priorities: increasing the availability of COVID-19 testing and expanding the number of ventilator-equipped critical care beds – in some cases by a factor of four. Except for Sweden, social lockdowns are ubiquitous. Disruption to business and agriculture is widespread, with governments rolling out multiple direct and indirect support programs.
- Europe – Universities and labs are rapidly scaling back or shutting down research projects, with the exception of COVID-19 research. Staff and technicians are only allowed to enter premises for essential tasks e.g. tending cell lines or lab animals.
- France – The French Minister of Economy is urging listed companies benefitting from tax rebates or discharges to abstain from paying dividends to their shareholders.
- Germany – The number of companies hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis has almost doubled in three weeks. In a flash survey of 15,000 companies across Germany, undertaken by DIHK, more than 80% now expect they will end this year with a significant drop in sales. More than one in four companies is anticipating a decline in sales of at least 50% for 2020.
- Israel – As of the 26 March, unemployment levels in Israel have reached 21.2% or 700,000 jobless. Many of these are skilled employees from high-tech companies, but layoffs have occurred across all industries.
- UK – Doctors and engineers from University College London (UCL) and the Formula 1 Mercedes team have devised a continuous positive airway pressure device that can help COVID-19 patients breathe without requiring sedation and ventilation. Designed in less than a week, the devices are in clinical trials at UCL Hospital.
- UK – Companies supporting the NHS with 3D printed ventilator parts can apply for approval to supply non-compliant medical devices on humanitarian grounds. Decisions will be made within 48 hours.
Impacts on key industries
- France – The French Government has ordered more than 1 billion protective masks from China and other providers for €1.5 billion. Through the French company Geodis, France and China will set up a regular plane connection to ensure the safe transfer of the products, with a planned 56 rotations by air cargo over 14 weeks. Two deliveries were completed on 29 and 30 March.
- Spain – The Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism has given the go ahead for 15 companies to produce medical equipment, such as respirators or protective equipment. In Catalonia, it is estimated that over 500 companies are redirecting their production towards health products (hand sanitisers, masks, protective gowns).
- UK – The UK’s revenue agency, HM Revenue & Customs, has produced updated guides to help businesses who produce – or would like to start producing – hand sanitiser and gel, including for licensed distillers and gin manufacturers.
- UK – The Defence and Security Accelerator is looking for rapid sanitising technology to speed up the time it takes to clean ambulances. It takes up to 45 minutes to clean a vehicle after it has transported a patient suspected to have the virus.
- UK – Over 80 medicines used to treat patients in intensive care units have been banned from parallel export from the UK. These include adrenaline, insulin, paracetamol and morphine.
- UK – The UK Government has ordered 30,000 ventilators for the NHS. Ventilator Challenge – a consortium of 14 companies, including Rolls-Royce, Airbus (UK), GKN, McLaren BAE Systems – will build 20,000 ventilators to two existing designs. Dyson will also manufacture 15,000 ventilators to a new design.
- UK – The NHS is preparing to launch an app that alerts users if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. Similar apps are seen to have been successful in South Korea and Singapore.
- France – The French Government wants to carry out more than 50,000 tests a day by the end of April 2020. French authorities have ordered 5 million rapid testing kits to carry out 30,000 additional tests a day in April, 60,000 additional tests a day in May and 100,000 additional tests a day in June.
- Spain – The government will speed up work authorisations for third-country nationals residing in Spain who have a sanitary qualification. It is estimated that 200 doctors and nurses will be able to join the national health system.
- UK – Boots Pharmacy is working with the NHS to recruit trained professionals from both the Boots workforce and the wider community to roll out COVID-19 testing facilities for NHS workers. The testing will take place in unspecified locations across the UK.
- UK - Three leading UK labour providers launched the Feed the Nation campaign to encourage job seekers, laid off from work due to COVID-19, to apply to work on British farms. To date 11,000 people have expressed interest.
- Spain – The Spanish Government has released €4.3 billion to aid the agricultural sector.
- Czech Republic – The number of Czech e-shops has increased significantly. Last week, 270 new e-shops were registered compared to a usual average of 130 per week. There was a large rise in the food/beverage/gastronomy sectors.
- UK – A number of high-profile UK retailers including Next, River Island and TKMAXX have shut stores and online shopping activities. Analysts say retail shutdowns threaten to wipe more than 20% or £11.1 billion off fashion sales in 2020.
- Netherlands/UK - Consumer goods giant Unilever has committed €100 million, donating soap, sanitiser, bleach and food. Unilever is also offering €500 million of cash flow relief through early payment to SME suppliers and extended credit lines for small-scale retail customers.
Logistics: borders and highways
- Europe – Low-cost UK headquartered carrier, Easyjet, has grounded its entire fleet.
- Germany – The only commercial flights now available from Germany to Australia are transit via Doha ex Frankfurt, and routes via Newark, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Toronto ex London.
- UK – Hull Trains is the first UK rail company to suspend services. It operates outside usual franchises so is ineligible for state support.
General economic news
- Germany – A DIHK survey found 43% of respondents currently have their business activities shut down. More than two-thirds of companies say they need state subsidies to make ends meet. Tax deferrals and the adjustment of tax prepayments are a key element.
- UK – Analysts at the Centre for Economics and Business Research forecast a cut to UK economic output by 15%, with unemployment doubling to around 8% or 2.75 million people out of work, in the deepest recession since the global financial crisis.
South Asia update
6 April 2020
India implemented a 21-day lockdown from 25 March. All non-essential businesses, retail outlets and government offices are shut, all domestic and international airlines have been grounded, and interstate bus and train services stopped. The population’s movement has also been restricted. Thousands of migrant workers are still trying to return to their hometowns.
Sri Lanka has declared an island-wide curfew and suspended its visa on arrival facility. Transit passengers are only allowed in Sri Lanka for six hours. Bangladesh has also imposed a nationwide lockdown with all domestic flights suspended.
- India’s economy is poised to shrink next quarter and full-year growth is set to suffer markedly.
- India is likely to see GDP contraction for the first time in two decades due to a halt in non-essential consumption. Full year GDP growth is forecast at 2.1%, down from 5–6% six weeks ago.
- The biggest impact is projected to be on private consumption, which accounts for 57% of India's GDP. This is fuelled by all non-essential consumption dropping to zero for three weeks.
- More than one-quarter of India’s 69 million micro, small and medium enterprises may shut if the lockdown extends beyond four to eight weeks, as a majority of them will have cash flow issues.
- India’s University Grants Commission is recognising higher education institutions that offer online programs. This could be an opportunity for Australian providers to engage Indian students through partner institutions and to commercialise the Australian curriculum.
- The Ministry of Human Resource Development has asked schools and higher education institutions to draft an alternate academic calendar for 2020–21. The change in the academic calendar may have an impact on higher education applications to Australian universities in 2021.
- India has moved to virtual and digital delivery with international schools, agents and institutions re-gearing to deliver remotely. All exams have been postponed.
- Several online learning platforms are offering their services to a wider audience. Toppr made its services free for use for some time. Global platforms such as Coursera and edX also gave free access to their courses.
- Bangladesh has closed all academic institutions until 9 April.
- Sri Lanka closed schools and universities for five weeks from 12 March to 20 April.
Food and beverage
- Food and grocery supply chains have been significantly impacted. This includes e-commerce platforms such as Amazon as delivery staff were not allowed to operate.
- After industry and government interaction, supplies to mom-and-pop stores, modern retail and e-commerce supply chains are being restored across India. E-commerce supply chains have started opening and full services covering essential goods in the next week.
- However, there are significant concerns about food security and the logistics supply chain if lockdowns continue and farmers cannot access markets in major centres. Civil conflict arising from food insecurity is another concern.
Resources and energy
- The mining, power and metals sectors are less affected than other industries, with many units continuing operations, albeit below normal levels.
- Public sector steelmakers are operating at capacity. Private companies (Jindal Steel W, AMNS) are scaling down production, both to support containment and to mitigate stock build-up as the automotive, industrial and construction sectors lock down, shrinking demand for steel.
- Large steel producers, who produce around half of India’s steel, cannot have sudden blast furnace shutdowns as there would be significant wastage, damage and downtime costs. However, smaller producers are substantially cutting back or halting production.
- Iron ore, manganese, chromite, limestone and dolomite mines are operating within constraints, although output is reduced, especially for the smaller, less mechanised mines.
- All major copper units and one major zinc producer have shut mining and production operations. One major aluminium PSU maintains operations, while other major private players have substantially cut back or shut down.
- For the first time, the Indian Government has issued a directive to state-level, local and police representatives to treat green energy plants as “essential services”.
Services and technology
- The Indian IT sector has moved nearly two-thirds of its 4.3 million workforce to work from home (WFH). The $150 billion industry that primarily services overseas clients is allowing these workers to build software and maintain them for clients from remote locations.
- Indian molecular diagnostics company, Mylab Discovery Solutions, has developed the first ‘made in India’ COVID-19 testing kit. Its Mylab PathoDetect COVID-19 Qualitative PCR kit screens and detects the infection within 2.5 hours, compared to 7+ hours taken by current protocols.
- Indian conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra, in partnership with two public sector units, is working with a manufacturer of high-spec ventilators to help simplify design and scale up capacity to produce devices for $150 as compared to $10,000–$20,000.
- Small Industries Development Bank of India will provide loans up to $100,000 to micro and small enterprises that are manufacturing COVID-19 medical supplies.
- The COVID-19 outbreak has caused severe disruptions to demand and supply in the Indian infrastructure sector.
- The lockdown is likely to have a major impact as the labour-intensive sector relies on contractual workers (who are mostly migrants). Even materials supply will take time to ramp up.
- The government’s changing priorities may also affect infrastructure investment.
Supply chain and logistics
- India’s logistics sector is in disarray because of disruptions caused by the nationwide lockdown. Across the country, the lockdown has resulted in labour shortages, which in turn has added to the limited availability of transportation facilities.
- The shutdown of non-essential businesses coupled with the lack of mobility for workers means the entire domestic manufacturing supply chain has come to a halt.
- India has asked countries with which it has free trade agreements to allow goods to be imported without a certificate of origin for the time being, as domestic authorities are not able to issue the document during the lockdown.
- Packaged food companies have been forced to cut production due to a lack of available workers. In towns where factories are still running, the workforce has been cut by half. Not only are many manufacturers are facing raw material shortages due to supply chain disturbances, they are also finding it hard to deliver finished products to retail stores due to restricted truck movements.
- The movement of cargo is severely impacted with several ports invoking force majeure.
- Fearing lockdowns, product shortages and soaring prices, Indian consumers have stockpiled food, medicines and toiletries, leading to empty shelves.
- The Indian Government has set up a control room to monitor the transportation and delivery of essential goods. It is also working with state governments to coordinate the movement of produce from farms to markets, and the movement of trucks carrying essentials and raw materials.
- India has announced a A$38 billion stimulus package, focused on alleviating impacts on India’s poorer populations. The package will provide food, cooking gas and cash payments, as well as make loans and medical insurance more accessible.
- India is close to finalising a second economic relief package that may include tax concessions for industry sectors hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, particularly micro, small and medium enterprises, services and exports.
- The government has also initiated talks with the World Bank for a package to speed up the creation of healthcare infrastructure that is urgently needed.
Middle East and Africa update
7 April 2020
Most Gulf States have introduced population lockdowns to varying degrees. Demand for food is high, including Australian food, but supply is problematic. Congestion at ports is causing delays and airfreight availability is limited at greatly increased prices. Most sea ports are working normally, with priority given to food products. Expo 2020 Dubai organisers may postpone the event until 2021; a decision will be made on 21 April. Lockdowns are affecting African economies and Turkey.
Impacts on key industries
Agriculture and food
- UAE – Demand for food products was high in pre-lockdown periods as consumers stocked up, although food services businesses have fared less well. Major Australian importers, consolidators, distributors and retailers are experiencing high levels of activity; however, port congestion and high freight charges may affect supply.
- Turkey – Stocks of wheat and pulses appear sufficient, and import permits have been requested if demand rises. Turkey has stopped meat imports as stockpiles are healthy. Meat imports will be considered if market prices increase.
- Regional – There is increased demand for digital healthcare tools that support the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19. There is rising demand for personal protective equipment, ventilators and isolation wards with oxygen ports.
- UAE – Drive-through COVID-19 testing facilities are opening in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Logistics: Air and sea
- Regional – All passenger flights between Australia and the UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have ceased.
- Dubai – Emirates Airline hopes to source agricultural produce from Australia to be carried in passenger jet cargo holds. The airline proposes up to five cargo flights a week to Australia from Melbourne. Each flight could transport 60 tonnes of cargo. Aircraft conversions will significantly increase airfreight capacity, although costs will still likely rise.
- Egypt – Egypt has suspended all passenger flights into the country until 14 April. The consequent lack of airfreight availability means Egypt is not able to import chilled Australian meat. Air cargo is still permitted but capacity is reduced and freight prices have correspondingly increased.
- Jordan – Food distribution faces challenges, although supplies remain healthy. The port of Aqaba is clearing food consignments but there are delays, partly as a result of requirements for additional documentation. Onward trucking may also face delays.
- Kuwait – Sea ports and oil terminals are loading and discharging cargo. There are some delays but facilities are functioning well overall. Since 13 March, cargo flights have been exempt from the ongoing suspension of commercial flights in and out of Kuwait.
- Pakistan – Ports and custom offices are open with a limited number of staff, and so all sea shipments and transactions are currently being processed. Banks are open with safety measures in place. All international passenger flights were suspended on 21 March until at least 11 April.
- Qatar – Qatar Airways is currently the only airline flying between Australia and the Middle East. Qatar Airways has increased flights to Australia to eight per day, owing to high demand. The airline wants to source agricultural produce from Australia to be carried in airliners’ cargo holds.
- Saudi Arabia – All sea ports are receiving shipments including Riyadh dry port. Clearances are taking longer than usual due to a reduced number of port and customs staff. Saudi authorities are deferring custom duties on foodstuffs until further notice to encourage importers to maintain supply chains. The Saudi Food & Drug Authority regularly updates the list of countries from which traders cannot import: to date this includes Spain, Morocco, Italy and others.
- UAE – Etihad Airways is operating some charter flights to bring in foodstuffs from Australia to the UAE. Sea freight from Australia is being delayed. Typically ships take 30 days to arrive in market via Singapore, and delays are currently occurring at or around this intermediate stage. Most airfreight from Australia to the UAE is now routed via Hong Kong.
- East Africa – Cargo flights are exempt from international flight bans into the region, although capacity is significantly reduced. The Port of Mombasa in Kenya, which serves Uganda and Rwanda, is still operating but delays are expected on most shipping routes due to diversions and country lockdowns. The port of Dar es Salaam, which serves Tanzania and neighbouring countries, is experiencing similar delays for the same reasons. Currently, there are no changes to import conditions as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Regional – Mining operations across the region have stopped or been scaled down.
- Morocco – The Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (ONHYM) has notified some METS companies that their contracts have been suspended due to force majeure. These notifications do not cancel contracts in place but puts them on hold until the lockdown is lifted.
- South Africa – All mining production ceased from 26 March, with the exception of mines providing thermal coal to state-owned power generator Eskom. Underground mine operations are required to make arrangements for care and maintenance only. Major miners declared force majeure on 26 March on a wide range of supplier contracts.
- Turkey – Most mining operations continue but with reduced staff numbers and shifts. Exports of some commodities have almost stopped – including marble exports to China – although some companies are producing for stock.
- Qatar– Around 40 Australian SMEs operate in the infrastructure, consulting and logistics sectors. The Qatar Development Bank and several other commercial banks will support SMEs by postponing payments from borrowers for three to six months. GWC, a leading logistics provider, announced that SMEs will be exempt from rent for three months.
- Saudi Arabia – Major tourism infrastructure projects are continuing in line with current schedules. Construction dates may be pushed back if there are lockdowns/stay-at-home orders for workers. Ramadan (starts 23 April) and summer weather may also affect schedules. Australian companies involved can continue to operate remotely with no site visits until the situation has stabilised.
Austrade International Health Webinar: Impact of COVID-19 in China
Market updates from China-based health industry experts and Austrade's International Health team regarding China’s health policy response to COVID-19 and the impact of the outbreak for China’s health industry. Recorded on Friday 27 March 2020.
Watch the webinar
Impact of Coronavirus in Australia and China
Hosted by Australia China Business Council on 20 March, the panel included Daniel Boyer (Austrade General Manager for Greater China) on the business impact on the ground in China, and Jenny West (Austrade General Manager for Trade and Investment) on the impact of the virus on Australian tourism and investment industries.
Watch the webinar
State and Territory support
In addition to the Federal Government, States and Territories also provide support, resources and advice for businesses:
Austrade will assist businesses and our partner agencies with strategies and initiatives aimed at rebuilding business links and restoring confidence as the worst of the disruption eases.
Students studying in Australia
For the latest information visit Study in Australia.
The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted thousands of Australia’s international students, and our institutions and regulators have moved swiftly to respond to the initial travel restrictions.
Wherever possible, educational institutions are offering courses online, and offering a wide range of support to affected students, including semester and staffing changes and a scale-up of digital course alternatives.
As the spread of the virus continues, our universities and education providers are well prepared to manage potential closures.
Students are advised to check with their individual institution to see what support is available to them.
International Education sector support
Austrade is working with our state and territory and federal partners to provide up-to-date information and advice to minimise disruption to the sector and our international students, both in Australia and abroad.
This Study Australia resource hub is a central source of messages, assets and resources for sector partners. The MIP Weekly Newsletter continues to distribute International Education sector relevant updates.
- Tourism Australia
- Department of Home Affairs
- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- Department of Health
- World Health Organisation (WHO) has daily updates on the COVID-19 outbreak.