Australia’s agricultural industry has been largely unscathed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but as Victoria sees the tail end of another lockdown and New South Wales faces indefinite restrictions, small-scale farmers on the border are uncertain about their future.

Key points:

  • A NSW egg farmer is losing 5,000 eggs a week during the pandemic
  • A Barham pig producer says her deli business is down 80 per cent
  • The hospitality industry says affects of the pandemic will be long lasting, even with Victoria reopening

It is normally the busiest time of year for farmer Kate Redfearn who lives in the NSW town of Moulamein, near the border with Victoria.

But COVID-19 lockdowns in both states have slowed the restaurant trade, and her main market.

chickens surrounding a car

Ms Redfearn said it’s usually her busiest time of the year. (

Supplied: Kate Redfearn


“My chickens did not stop laying, I can’t do anything about that,” Ms Redfearn said.

Ms Redfearn usually supplies thousands of eggs to restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne every week, but she is now having to throw out, or give away, 5,000 eggs each week.

“Eggs have a shelf life of six weeks and we always try to get rid of the eggs in the same week we collect them, so they’re as fresh as possible when going to the customer,” she said.

“So if I hold onto them, they just start accumulating, and they’d have to be thrown out.”

It has been tough for her business during the entire pandemic.

“Every day you just wake up and go ‘gosh, what’s going to happen today?'” she said.

“I feel like it’s affecting me. I’ve tried to stay really positive throughout the whole thing, but this one I just think ‘here we go again’.”

Although Victoria’s lockdown ends at midnight tonight and provides some relief for Ms Redfearn, it is not enough.

“The problem is hospitality businesses are nervous,” she said.

Orders drying up

A woman is wearing a hat standing in front of a tree with a dam behind her.

Lauren Mathers said her deli business is down 80 per cent in Barham, NSW.(

ABC Rural: Eden Hynninen


It is much the same for Barham pig producer Lauren Mathers, who lives on the NSW border with Victoria and relies heavily on the restaurant trade in both states.

Ms Mathers said her deli business is down 80 per cent and online orders are drying up.

And she thinks it is only going to get tougher.

“How are we going to suddenly cater for that?

“We can’t plan, and because we get pigs in from the farm it’s not like we can whip out and grab another 10 pigs when it opens up again.

“We won’t know until it’s too late. It just means that next week people will be short on what they need, so we’re actually having a week off so things can hopefully come back to some sense of normality.”

A large pig is laying on the ground around hay.

Lauren Mathers says every lockdown is getting tougher.(

ABC Rural: Eden Hynninen


She doubts Australia has seen the toughest part of the pandemic yet.

‘It doesn’t happen overnight’

A chef leans over a commercial kitchen table, using a rolling pin to flatten out a pastry to turn into a lemon tart.

Sonia Anthony said the affects of the pandemic will be long lasting, even with Victoria reopening.(

ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky


In Victoria, Bendigo-based restaurateur Sonia Anthony is a champion of regional producers and said the affects of the pandemic will be long lasting, even with Victoria reopening.

“It doesn’t just happen overnight,” Ms Anthony said.

“And it’s getting harder. We’ve been there so many times but it doesn’t get easier. People are fatigued, people are tired, people are stressed.

“We’re having to dig into our pots of cash to pay not just our restaurant bills, but our family bills.”

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Despite Victorian lockdown ending, border farmers concerned as produce goes to waste
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