Victoria's small producers have welcomed the state governments $1.5 million E-Commerce package, saying it'll help them with improving their supply chains and boost online marketing.
Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes has announced the $1.5 million E-Commerce and New Marketplace Transition Package, part of the Agriculture Workforce Plan, which the government hopes will help the agriculture sector through the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
Ms Symes said online farmers markets, or marketplaces primarily selling Victorian agricultural produce, will be able to apply for grants to help new and existing producers with the cost of online marketing and registration fees.
"Staying at home should be no barrier to enjoying fantastic Victorian produce like cheese, wine and small goods, through our vibrant online marketplace community," Ms Symes said.
"Victorian agriculture is such an important part of our economy and appeal - this direct support will help farmers and producers reach more customers and boost their businesses."
Online marketplaces can also apply for grants to help cover the cost of freight and logistics, to reduce delivery fees.
Open Food Networks Kirsten Larsen said she was happy the government had recognised its role.
OFN provides an open source platform for food producers to sell online, as well as creating virtual farmers markets and helping existing operations.
"We've been working pretty closely with the government, to support the development of an app that can help the whole sector," Ms Larsen said.
"It's been a pretty intense and challenging year for farmers, as well as us, in adapting to respond to their needs."
She said OFN had helped get hundreds of small farmers online, during the pandemic, with no government support up until now.
The platform had seen a tenfold increase in people buying products from farmers and other primary producers, since the pandemic.
Ms Larsen said one of the main areas where small producers needed support was in logistics and transport.
"It's been something we have been working on for quite a few years, and we have put a number of propositions to the government for shared logistics."
The plan coincides with the Victorian Country Market and "Click for Vic" promotions.
The Victorian Country Market showcases an extensive selection of fresh produce and artisan products from the state's farmers.
Provenir mobile abattoir co-founder Jayne Newgreen said she believed the funding boost would be of "incredible" assistance to small producers.
The mobile abattoir was recently granted a Victorian operating licence.
"We have been fortunate enough to have a little taste of what this can offer, through the Victorian Country Market initiative, Provenir has been involved, since day one," Ms Newgreen said.
"We have really been able to broaden our marketing reach, into Melbourne and Victoria wide, with our online sales.
"We've taken on a very ambitious goal of being able to deliver to everyone in Victoria, no matter where they are."
She said online marketing would also allow Provenir to get regional produce in to regional households.
"Often that's lost in the supply chain," she said.
"One day, when things are back to normal, it will compliment those real life farmers markets and provide resilience for regional producers to supply their products in a more diverse way.
"The sky's the limit - we can have regional food hubs and transportation networks, that can be shared amongst members of the online platform, which strengthens accessibility for online produce."
Provenir was now getting back in touch with all the farmers who had contacted it, since its inception.
"We have a couple of hundred farmers, registered in Victoria - it's just a matter of marrying up our availability and when the cattle are ready."
Ms Symes said a training program would also be provided to help farmers and producers with their e-commerce skills, supporting them to implement an effective e-commerce strategy as part of their ongoing operations.
Boosting accessibility to online markets for Victoria's farmers and producers was crucial due to the pandemic limiting sales to the hospitality sector, reduced numbers of people able to visit farmers markets as well as less tourists travelling in the state.
Key online marketplaces that sell Victorian produce and agricultural products will be contacted directly by Agriculture Victoria about the package to make sure they know what help is available.
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