Fresh Source Winter 2020

Page 1

Winter 2020 Issue


COVID-19 hits growers p6




a family AFFAIR


The magazine of

Your source of fresh information for the fruit and vegetable industry Print post approved pp 100001181

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CEO comment Unprecedented is the only word to describe the past five months. Just when we thought the worst was over, stay-at-home orders have come into effect in Melbourne providing a warning to all of us as to how easily our hard work can be torn asunder. From the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been very clear that the main priority at Brisbane Markets Limited (BML) has been, and must always be, to facilitate the trade and supply of fresh fruit and vegetables for Queensland consumers. We will continue to work closely with industry and government to ensure this remains the case into the future.

Innovation along the supply chain The pandemic has highlighted two important aspects of the fresh produce supply chain: resilience and innovation. The ability for companies, whether they are involved in farming, wholesale, retail or logistics, to pivot quickly to respond to the changing health environment, demonstrates the industry’s ongoing commitment to innovation. From home delivery boxes (page 15), implementing on-farm health plans (pages 6), farm gate sales, online ordering facilities to behavioural change (page 24), the supply chain has been quick to respond to the COVID-19 health crisis. Amongst industry groups we have seen a reassessment of how information is provided to their memberships, with many rolling out webinars, COVID-19 resources and online events, such as the Australian Melon Association’s virtual variety trials on page 10.

While it is good to see that the number of seasonal workers in the country is sufficient for the winter picking season (page 7), we hope that a workable solution can be found if international border closures continue into spring and summer.

Keeping Brisbane Markets® healthy The impact of COVID-19 on businesses within the Brisbane Markets® has varied. As Gail Woods from Fresh Markets Australia (FMA) outlines on page 9, higher demand from retail sales of fruit and vegetables at the onset of the pandemic was unable to counter the negative impact of the abrupt closure of parts of the hospitality and food service industries on tenants within the Brisbane Produce Market. Likewise, the Brisbane Flower Market experienced an increased demand for flowers from consumers wanting to show love to those they couldn’t see because of stay-at-home orders and an unprecedented, sell-out Mother’s Day (page 20). However, the impact of postponed events and weddings, as well as the shortage of flowers due to Mother’s Day demand and a lack of airfreight import opportunities, will continue to be felt by the floriculture industry for many months to come. BML has implemented Daily Health Assessments for all essential visitors to access-restricted areas of the Markets and has discouraged non-essential visitors to limit the risk of COVID-19 infections on site. We also provided rent relief to eligible tenants who have been hit hardest by the health restrictions imposed by

governments, as well as providing rent waivers and credits for all tenants and information to keep all stakeholders informed. You can read more about our approach at Brisbane Markets® on page 14.

Farewell to familiar faces I’d like to take this opportunity to farewell Selwyn Snell, who steps down from his role as Chair of Hort Innovations in November (page 31). Selwyn has regularly attended the Brisbane Produce Market Annual Gala Dinner and has always shown a willingness to listen to industry concerns. In this edition we also say farewell to Gail Woods, General Manager at Brismark (page 32). It has been a pleasure to work with Gail for the past seven years and I thank her for her contributions to Brismark over that time. While Selwyn is heading towards retirement, Gail will continue to be involved with the industry in her role as General Manager of FMA. Gail’s replacement at Brismark, Alex Lazarou, has extensive experience in fresh produce wholesaling and I look forward to working closely with him in his new role. I hope by the time the next edition of Fresh Source is released that life will have returned to some level of normalcy. But in the meantime, please keep safe and healthy.

Andrew Young, Chief Executive Officer, BML and Brismark Winter 2020 FRESH SOURCE





Contents 6 Fresh Updates 6 7 7 8 9 10 11 11 11 12 12

Case highlights effectiveness of on-farm plans International worker shortages postponed but not forgotten Drought top concern for Granite Belt Funding boost improves technology and job growth COVID-19 drives demand for veggies Melon trials go virtual after conference cancelled New era for Panama TR4 Program Hope in new varieties Pinnacle of marketing Seasonal workers a winning formula for Paradise Fruit Seasonal approach for workers

14 Fresh Markets 14 15 15 16 16 17 18 18

Keeping Brisbane Markets healthy Markets media stays positive during pandemic Reflecting on 30 years in the Market Raising the roof for site upgrade Forklift Operator of the Year to go ahead in October Women dive into diverse roles PMA A-NZ welcomes new Chair for Board NBN flips the switch

20 Fresh Flowers 20 Local flowers the top pick for Mother’s Day 21 Flower supplies return to normal winter levels

23 Fresh Perspectives 23 Fresh produce a family affair

26 Fresh Retailing 26 27 27 28 28 30 30

Shop local to veg in this winter Charlie’s voted best delivery box Aussies buying more juicy citrus Getting the low down from those who know It’s time to discover a better choice Food to put you in a good mood Ripe time for consumer behaviour change

31 Fresh Industry 31 32 32 33 34 34 35 35

Retirement beckons for Selwyn Snell New market development role for avocados Farewell time for reflection VegNET RDOs ready for second phase Month-long celebration of organics Fall Armyworm on the march Bananas celebrate national day No rest for Paradise advocate

36 Fresh Export 36 Health crisis continues for exporters and importers 37 Exports increase to $299M in 2019, but crisis leads to an uncertain 2020 38 Local persimmons impress Thai market 38 Free flowing trade opened with Indonesia

BRISBANE MARKETS LIMITED | ABN 39 064 983 017 PO Box 80, Brisbane Markets®, Rocklea, Queensland 4106 E W ADVERTISING AND EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES Editor: Seren Trump, Brisbane Markets Limited P 07 3915 4200 E DESIGN Effigy Creative P 07 3040 4343 | PRINT Buckner Printing P 07 3865 9677



Winter 2020

Fresh Source is the magazine of Brisbane Markets Limited. New editions of the magazine are printed three times a year. Advertising and editorial inquiries are welcome and media outlets are invited to use material without acknowledgement. Fresh Source is printed on Australian made recycled stock.

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Case highlights effectiveness of on-farm plans Growers are well prepared to identify and isolate workers who contract COVID-19. That is the assessment after a strawberry farm worker in Bundaberg tested positive for COVID-19. Since his diagnosis at the beginning of June, no other cases have been identified in the region. The fruit picker in question had been exposed to the virus in Melbourne prior to flying to Brisbane on 1 June where he socialised with family and friends, contrary to health department regulations, before flying on to Bundaberg. The 24-year-old Victorian man’s flatmate had tested positive for COVID-19, but he had not been made aware of his exposure to the virus at the time of travel. He worked one shift on the farm before testing positive to COVID-19. A pop-up testing clinic was quickly set up, all workers were tested and close contacts were placed in quarantine. Within a week over 250 people had been tested, including 18 close contacts in Brisbane and 101 co-workers in Bundaberg. By the end of June, the fruit picker had fully recovered and 28 close contacts had all returned negative results after quarantining. Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Jeannette Young, praised the response from the farm at the centre of the case and the wider Bundaberg community. “The farm has been extremely cooperative and is helping us make sure we protect their workers and the broader community,” Dr Young said. She reassured the public that there was no danger in eating strawberries from the farm in question. “There is absolutely no risk to consumers who have not been in direct contact with the case,” Dr Young said. Bundaberg MP David Batt said the case was a wake-up call for Bundaberg and regional Queensland. “Here in Bundy we have over 3,000 backpackers any day of the year, all picking fruit and vegetables. We need that. Our farmers need those people here,” he said.



Winter 2020

The farm where a fruit picker tested positive for COVID-19 has been praised for their quick and effective response to the case. IMAGE: Shutterstock

“We can’t restrict them coming to town, otherwise Australia won’t get their crops picked. We just need to … make sure when people do travel to Bundaberg that they are healthy, or isolating themselves until they confirm they are healthy.” Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers Managing Director, Bree Grima, said the case showed that growers were well prepared to face cases on their farms. “It shows that the systems and protocols that were developed alongside Queensland Health are robust and effective,” Ms Grima said. “The producer involved had a health management plan in place and this has allowed them to reduce possible transmission among staff and protect their business. “Producers are competent in workplace health and safety as well as biosecurity concerns. The impacts of COVID-19 can be treated similarly with procedures and processes to minimise impact and reduce the spread.”

International worker shortages postponed but not forgotten Initial worries that there would be a shortage in seasonal workers for Queensland farms has eased in the short-term, but there are still concerns that current arrangements will not be sustainable long-term. Early in April, the federal government announced the temporary extension of visas for foreign agriculture and food processing workers. The changes meant that those already in the country as part of the Pacific Labour Scheme, Seasonal Worker Program and Working Holiday Maker program were allowed to continue working until the health crisis has passed. AUSVEG CEO, James Whiteside, said that the announcement was a sensible and practical solution for fruit and vegetable growers who rely on a combination of local workers and foreign backpackers to work on farms to supply Australian with ample fruits and vegetables. “The extension of Seasonal Worker Program, Pacific Labour Scheme and Working Holiday Maker visas is a muchneeded short-term solution to what will become a larger problem as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit the number of foreign workers who can come to Australia,” said Mr Whiteside. Backpackers who work in agriculture or food processing are now exempt from the six month work limitation with the one employer and eligible for a further visa to keep working in critical sectors, including agriculture, if their current visa

is due to expire before September 2020. Workers in the Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme have been able to extend their stay for 12 months to work for approved employers. The next wave of concerns comes from ongoing international border closures, and a lack of skilled workers, for the next picking season from September 2020 to March 2021. A lot of workers who are part of the Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Program come to Australia for a specific timeframe each year. Many have seen that time extended, meaning they are away from their families a lot longer than originally planned. As seasonal workers return to their families in their home country, growers are concerned that they won’t be replaced. The number of backpackers in the countries, who normally fill the jobs that locals don’t want, has halved from 180,000 to 90,000 and is continuing to fall. A new parliamentary enquiry was announced at the end of June, which will look at helping the economic recovery of tourism, health and farming industries including how to fill seasonal jobs that are usually undertaken by backpackers and whether the growing numbers of unemployed Australians could help fill the positions in the meantime. However, concerns have been raised about local workers being unwilling to fill the gaps on farms. Federal Minister

While there are currently sufficient numbers of seasonal workers for winter picking, there are worries that shortages will occur for the spring season. IMAGE: Paradise Fruits Elimbah.

for Agriculture, David Littleproud, has admitted that the increased JobSeeker payments gave unemployed Australians little incentive to “get off the couch” and into work in the paddocks. “Our preference is for an Australian to work, particularly if they’re unemployed,” Mr Littleproud said. “I appreciate there are some who will have to travel many kilometres to do some of this work but we need to understand this is a need that has to be filled. It’s important that if you’re willing and able you should get out there and help and work particularly in the agricultural sector. It’s imperative that we keep this part of the economy going.” “But in essence, the challenge that farmers have, they can’t wait for someone to know if they want to do this work. The labour market is there to source it. It’s the fluidity and moving it around the country to address the needs we have to deal with.” Mr Littleproud said that a Trans-Tasman travel bubble that including Pacific nations and Timor Leste, where a lot of seasonal workers arrive from, would also be considered.

Drought top concern for Granite Belt Despite rain at the beginning of the year, the Granite Belt is still in the grips of a devastating drought with some growers are considering carting water for the third year in a row.

With COVID-19 dominating the headlines and causing a financial recession, Mr Ferrier was worried growers would be overlooked.

Angus Ferrier, president of the Granite Belt Growers Association, said that drought remained the biggest concern for the region’s producers.

“I think the lack of drought assistance for the horticulture industry remains an issue. The current pot of money has been expended or exhausted. I would like to see a commitment for new funding of drought assistance for horticulture made available this financial year,” Mr Ferrier said.

“There has not been enough rain to fill dams, which means growers of annual crops face uncertainty of what they should do with seedling orders,” Mr Ferrier said. “Growers of permanent crops face an uncertain summer ahead in terms of water supply for their trees and vines. That, compounded with the stress event on trees from last summer, is a very real concern.”

“I’m very concerned agriculture will fall down the priority list. Of course we understand it’s highly competitive and priorities for funding might be different at the moment. But we’ve been fighting for three years to be eligible for some drought assistance and we feel like we’re still in the dark on where it’s going to come from.” Winter 2020 FRESH SOURCE



Funding boost improves technology and job growth Four growers are amongst 14 regional businesses who have benefited from round two of the Queensland Government’s Rural Economic Development Grant.

“The new facility will transform whole vegetable products into sliced, diced and powdered ingredients and value-added products made up of these components. There is appropriate demand and financial incentive to process this waste into high value product,” Mr Harch said. The Rural Economic Development (RED) Grants program offers emerging projects up to $250,000 in co-contributions to build industry and grow employment opportunities across the agricultural sector. The $10 million grants program provides for three funding rounds over a three-year period ending in 2021. For more information visit

Marto’s Mangoes in Bowen, Vanstone Produce in the Lockyer Valley, Kalfresh in the Scenic Rim, and Moonrocks in St George have all receiving funding to improve on-farm technology and support job growth in their regions. Marto’s Mangoes is set to purchase a new mango grader with the grant, which will allow the company to determine the maturity of every single one of their mangoes as well as check for internal defects the moment each is ready to be packed. Marto’s Mangoes Director, Ben Martin, said the technology and upskilling of the workforce would increase the profile of the agricultural sector’s employment opportunities in the region. “This will create greater opportunities for local youth employment as well as attract workers to the Bowen region. The system will enable our staff to develop new agricultural technology skills, knowledge and improve their future employment prospects, while the broad aim is to enhance the consumer’s eating experience,” Mr Martin said. Vanstone Produce will use the funding to create a climatecontrolled packing area, an undercover concreted area for storage and new staff facilities. The company’s Managing Director, Justin Vanstone, said the project would provide proven improvement to the packing process of the company’s produce. “It will allow us to pack produce in a climate-controlled environment all year round, giving us the ability to maintain cold chain, as well as provide our staff with a more comfortable and safe working environment,” Mr Vanstone said.

Lockyer Valley growers, Vanstone Produce, will build climate controlled packing facilities with their RED grant. Pictured are Justin and Zac Vanstone.

Kalfresh plans to create an automated, non-destructive sweet corn processing line, with innovative x-ray functionality. The processing line will allow Kalfresh to increase sweet corn plantings by 200 ha a year, support new jobs and significantly increase regional business revenue. Kalfresh CEO Richard Gorman said the new infrastructure would allow Kalfresh to grow and cut sweet corn to meet the consumer trend for ready-to-eat, pre-cut vegetables, while also reducing food waste by using x-ray technology to better analyse the corn and utilise more of the crop to meet retail specifications. “Market research and data tells us that one of the biggest growth areas in fresh produce is the ready-to-eat, prepared salad and vegetable sector. The key to succeeding in this space is to have an efficient paddock to packet model and being able to utilise most of your crop,” Mr Gorman said. According to Moonrocks project manager Harry Harch, their funding would be used to convert low value, seconds lines of vegetables into high value, shelf stable products.



Winter 2020

Automating corn processing is a priority for Kalfresh’s RED grant. IMAGE: Simon Langford-Ely

COVID-19 drives demand for veggies Consumer vegetable intake has risen as a result of COVID-19, while fresh fruit and the food service industry has taken a hit according to a new report from Nielson. Composed for the Hort Innovationfunded Harvest to Home project, the report showed that in the four weeks to 22 March 2020 there were unprecedented grocery sales in the wake of COVID-19. In the reporting period, total grocery sales were 18% higher than December 2019, driven by increases in frequency and spend per trip. The monthly volume growth of fresh produce was up 5.1%, reaching a two-year high. “Shoppers rushed to stockpile on packaged groceries to prepare for lockdown at home and in response to fear of scarcity on supermarket shelves, though bulk purchasing of fresh produce was not quite as pronounced,” Nielsen Associate Director – Fresh Industry Lead and the report’s author, Melanie Norris, said. According to the report, vegetables were the key driver of strong fresh produce performance, increasing by 15% in the reporting period. Potatoes, carrots and onions – vegetables that store well – contributed most to the growth. “Households purchased vegetables more frequently, on average, and increased their volume per shopping trip. In other parts of the store vegetables were also in high demand, with frozen sales up by 59.8%, while sales of canned vegetables increased by 118.5%,” Ms Norris said. Conversely, fruit volume sales declined in the same period. Bananas, apples and stonefruit were the highest contributors to volume growth; however, berries, avocados and citrus did not perform as expected, perhaps due to the shorter shelf life and more discretionary nature of berries and avocados in particular. For fruit in other parts of the store, frozen fruit recorded an all-time high for volume growth of 39.3%, while canned fruit also increased by 73.9%, suggesting that longevity was a key consideration. Given that the average price of fruit was 7.9% per cent higher than the same time year ago, budgetary constraints may also have been a factor. Gail Woods, General Manager of Fresh Markets Australia (FMA) said that the sudden change in consumer sentiment at the onset of the pandemic resulted in a much higher-than-normal demand at the retail level, which in turn caused

Cooking from home has increased consumer intake of Australian vegetables.

businesses that operated at the central wholesale markets to also experience a high level of demand. “The Australian consumer’s initial response to the pandemic has been well documented in relation to panic buying. Initially, retailers experienced a very high level of demand across all commodities, but particularly hard produce. The increase in home cooking saw good consumer demand for produce generally on top of seasonal demand,” Mrs Woods said. Conversely, the abrupt and almost complete closure of the food and beverage sector has had a dramatically negative impact on the demand for sector-specific produce, resulting in an over-supply of those commodities. “While a number of suppliers to the sector were able to pivot to the consumer market, there was an overall negative impact on these suppliers. This produce destined for the food and beverage sector increased the supply to other supply chain customers,” Mrs Woods said.

Despite the severe disruption from the pandemic, there have been some positives for the supply chain through this time. “The good working relationships between wholesalers and growers – some decades long – have continued with the good flow of information in relation to the changing demand and supply. The diversity of central markets supply chain customers means that produce can be marketed widely and not exclusively to one sector,” Mrs Woods said. “Wholesalers have displayed resilience, knowing how to adapt to environmental and economic challenges as proven over many years, and continue to operate, as fluctuations in supply and demand are commonplace in the supply chain.” This article is an extract from ‘The times they are a-changing: how Coronavirus has changed the world’, which first appeared in the winter 2020 edition of Vegetables Australia. To read the complete story please visit

Winter 2020 FRESH SOURCE



Melon trials go virtual after conference cancelled While Aussie melon growers are confined to their own paddocks this season, the Australian Melon Association is bringing the latest in research and development to them via a video series featuring new melon varieties. Many new varieties were due to be showcased by seed companies at the 2020 Syngenta Australian Melon Conference and Field Day that was scheduled for late March but cancelled due to pandemic restrictions. Shot on location at Capogreco Farms at Hamel in Western Australia, the video series features five melon variety trial sites by seed companies Syngenta, Seminis, BASF Nunhems, HM Clause and Rijk Zwaan, as well as a highlight compilation video featuring all variety trials. Australian Melon Association Industry Development Manager, Dianne Fullelove, said seed trials are always a highlight of the biennial conference and field day. “Making the call to cancel such an important event was difficult but absolutely necessary, and we wanted to make sure that our growers weren’t disadvantaged when it came to planning the seasons ahead,” she said.

think that the videos offer a really comprehensive overview of what’s on track for release.” Ms Fullelove said the videos highlight the importance of melons to the portfolios of seed companies, as well as some of the impressive results of breeding and trialling programs both in Australia and overseas. “There are a lot of traditional melon offerings, but also varieties that meet the ongoing demands of the grower, such as aphid resistance and high yield potential, and the interest from consumers for sweetness, keepability and outstanding taste profiles,” she said. “There’s a strong commitment by seed companies to breeding new varieties of melons to meet the growing market for melons in Australia, which puts the industry in good stead. “Having options when considering what to grow in their production schedules is definitely a great advantage for Australian melon growers, and the industry as a whole is grateful for the support of the seed companies in making these trials so successful.” To view the videos visit

“Trialling new varieties is an important part of a farmer’s efforts to make the most of their growing selection, and we

Melons on show: Bruno Capogreco shows off some of the rockmelons from the trials at Capogreco Farms in Western Australia.


Winter 2020

A selection of trial plots at Capogreco Farms.

New era for Panama TR4 Program A new management board to oversee the Panama TR4 Program in Queensland until 2023 has met for the first time, heralding the start of a unique government-industry partnership to help protect the future of Australia’s $600 million banana industry. Queensland Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the Panama TR4 Program Management Board (the Board) would oversee the continued delivery and governance of the Panama TR4 Program, which was developed to help manage the soil-borne disease after it was first detected in the Tully Valley in 2015. Mr Furner said the Queensland Government and Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC) would jointly fund, govern and deliver the program until 30 June 2023. He said under the new collaborative arrangement, industry and government would have equal decision-making responsibilities on the Board to ensure the program continued to be effective and run efficiently. “In 2019, the Queensland Government committed a further $12.089 million from 1 January 2019 to 30 June 2023 to control and contain Panama TR4 in Queensland’s banana production areas. The ABGC will begin co-funding the program this year through grower levies, eventually contributing 50% of funding for the program in 2022/23,” Mr Furner said. Board member and ABGC Director Andrew Serra said the ABGC had secured the support of banana growers to proceed with the jointly funded and delivered model, to ensure the best possible protection to the national banana industry.

Hope in new varieties A new quarantine facility on the Sunshine Coast is fast-tracking imported banana varieties in a bid to save Queensland’s banana industry from Panama disease Tropical Race 4 (Panama TR4). Panama TR4, a soil borne pathogen that cannot be eradicated, is now present on four farms near Tully. It is hoped that the new quarantine facility will speed up the process of importing and screening cultivars that show resistance to the disease. The state government invested $287,547 in the new facility and according to Mr Furner it was designed to safeguard the banana industry. “Safely importing banana tissue culture plantlets to find a variety that is resistant to Panama disease Tropical Race 4, is vital to the ongoing and long-term sustainability of Australia’s banana industry,” Mr Furner said.

“Panama TR4 remains one of the greatest challenges facing our industry,” Mr Serra said. “The collaborative efforts of growers, government and researchers have been able to limit the spread of this disease since 2015, but the work needs to continue to protect the livelihoods of our growers and the wider industry. I encourage all growers to take the opportunity to provide input to the Board through their ABGC representatives, when necessary.”

Pinnacle of marketing

Board members are: Malcolm Letts (DAF, Chair), Stephen Lowe (ABGC), Andrew Serra (ABGC), Jim Pekin (ABGC), Mike Ashton (DAF) and Lynne Turner (DAF).

Pinnacle Fresh has won the 2020 Produce Plus and PMA Australia-New Zealand (PMA A-NZ) Marketer of the Year Award for their innovative ‘Dracula Citrus’ campaign. Originally developed for the US market, the Dracula Citrus brand is now present in six countries including Australia. Since the campaign’s launch in 2017, sales of Australian-grown blood oranges marketed under the Dracula Citrus brand have leapt from 228 tonnes (2017) to 695 tonnes (2019). Over 340 tonnes of Afourer mandarins were sold under the brand in 2019, up from 98 tonnes in 2018, while Cara Cara navels (110 tonnes) were also marketed under the label for the first-time last year. The tagline ‘Wickedly Healthy’ was used to promote Australian citrus over the Halloween period in the US, positioning the fruit as a healthy alternative for trick-or-treaters.

Identifying Panama TR4: A biosecurity officer looking for signs of Panama TR4.

Winter 2020 FRESH SOURCE 11


Seasonal workers a winning formula for Paradise Fruit A partnership between Paradise Fruit and a not-for-profit registered training organisation has proven fruitful for sourcing seasonal workers, although accommodation has proved a challenge. Based in Elimbah since 1996, Paradise Fruit produces raspberries and blueberries which are marketed by Perfection Fresh Australia. Paul Dydula, Managing Director of Paradise Fruit, said they had partnered with MADEC Australia over the last three years to employ more than 50 staff members under the Seasonal Worker Program. MADEC is a not for profit and charitable organisation, with a 50 year history of providing relief to people experiencing poverty or distress. MADEC is a nationally registered training organisation, manages the National Harvest Labour Information Service (sourcing and placing more 15,000 jobs in horticulture across Australia) and is an approved employer under the Seasonal Worker Program. Most of Paradise Fruit’s seasonal workers are housed locally in Caboolture, however, it is difficult sourcing appropriate accommodation that meets government requirements and the workers do not have a tenancy record in Australia. “Accommodation is required to be finalised 14 weeks prior to the arrival of the workers, which means paying rent for no purpose for more than three months, so it’s not all roses,” Mr Dydula said. “Furthermore, the local government requirements for housing don’t mesh with the state and federal government requirements, which makes it very frustrating to provide on-farm accommodation. If we can address streamlining of the accommodation process, this will definitely be the future of meeting labour and workforce requirements in the berry industries.”

The partnership with MADEC provides 50% of Paradise Fruit’s labour requirements with the remaining workforce made up of locals and Working Holiday Visa holders (backpackers). “We have mostly married men working with us and the MADEC process of recruitment means they have a really good work ethic. The workers are paid through an appropriate piece rate agreement and many work hard to ensure their families back home are well supported,” Mr Dydula said. According to Michael Wallis, MADEC Account Manager SEQ, the company assists growers by conducting labour market testing and recruiting seasonal workers, providing support with upfront costs, sourcing accommodation and transportation, as well as other administrative assistance. “The initial trial we conducted with Paradise Fruit over three years ago has been quite successful for the seasonal workers themselves and Paradise Fruit, and it is lovely to see the same employees returning to the farm each period,” Mr Wallis said. “The value that MADEC can really offer growers is in the administrative and management aspects of the partnership, which can help them access the program.”

Seasonal approach for workers The Seasonal Worker Program assists employers in the agriculture and accommodation sectors to fill employment gaps unable to be met by the Australian workforce. It also contributes to the economic development of seasonal workers from nine participating Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste. While no seasonal workers are currently able to travel to Australia from overseas, those who were already in Australia when borders were closed have had their visas extended by 12 months. Before seeking access to seasonal workers under the Seasonal Worker Program, ‘approved employers’ must first try to recruit local job seekers by undertaking labour market testing. As the employer of seasonal workers, approved employers are responsible for organising flights, transport and accommodation for workers, pastoral care, ensuring seasonal workers have access to a minimum average of 30 hours of work per week and monitoring the seasonal workers’ wellbeing.

Seasonal Worker Program participants (left to right) Rachen Toara, Hilton Kalsan, Ray Sale, Fred Eraic, Robert Charly, with Brett O’Neill (Paradise Fruit Farm Manager) and Michael Wallis (MADEC Account Manager for South East Queensland).


Winter 2020

The process usually takes between three to four months to complete. An employer cannot recruit or commence recruitment under the Seasonal Worker Program until they have met all of the above conditions and submitted a recruitment plan that has been approved by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment. Visit for more information.

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Keeping Brisbane Markets healthy Brisbane Markets Limited (BML) has continued to protect the trade and supply of fresh fruit and vegetables for Queensland consumers, by implementing a raft of measures aimed at keeping the Brisbane Markets® site safe and healthy during the COVID-19 health emergency. On top of the cancellation of events, tour groups and public entry to the Brisbane Produce Market that took effect at the onset of the pandemic, BML has continued to take additional actions to protect the site. Since late March, registered buyers and service providers are required to complete an online daily health assessment prior to entering the access-controlled markets precinct. Those persons who do not complete a health assessment are provided with manual checks on arrival, including temperature checks. Visitors to access-controlled areas are also required to be registered by markets businesses and complete a health assessment prior to attending the site. Additional cleaning and sanitisation services were also implemented, with a focus on high-touch surfaces. BML’s contract cleaners, Eaton Services Group, were engaged to carry out twice-daily cleaning of common areas within the Central Trading Area, CP1, the Commercial Centre and the Fresh Centre including bathrooms, light switches, stairwells, water fountains, door handles, pedestrian turnstiles, swipe card points, lifts and hand rails. To assist with the response to the pandemic, BML implemented a dedicated COVID-19 webpage outlining recommended safety precautions, operational changes and links to other relevant information. A new Site Service Centre Online web portal was also created in a bid to reduce foot traffic to the physical Site Service Centre, provide additional remote services for markets users and protect frontline employees. The Site Service Centre Online provides the first port of call for visitor registrations, visitor health assessments, daily health assessments for buyers and service providers, and general enquiries. The online portal will continue to be utilised postCOVID-19. Those Brisbane Markets® tenants who experienced a reduction in turnover of 30% or more and met the Federal Government’s Mandatory Code (Code) and BML’s COVID-19 Hardship Policy (Policy) were provided with rent relief. 14 FRESH SOURCE

Winter 2020

Eaton Services Group conducting daily cleaning and sanitisation of common areas at Brisbane Markets®.

At the time, BML acknowledged that COVID-19 had also impacted many other businesses operating at the Brisbane Markets®, albeit to a lesser degree. While those businesses were not eligible for rent relief under the Code or BML’s Policy, BML’s CEO, Andrew Young, announced a range of rental waivers and credits that were applied to all Brisbane Markets® tenant accounts for the month of May 2020. The initiative was welcomed by tenants. “It was important to BML that all tenants receive some financial support during this period,” Mr Young said. “Regardless of the specific impact of COVID-19 on each individual business, all tenants received a level of support which was in addition to any separate rent relief that BML applied to individual tenants whose circumstances were assessed under our new COVID-19 Hardship Policy.” In terms of reductions and waivers which occurred, 51 tenant businesses, out of a total of 170 on site, suffered a loss in turnover of more than 30%. For some, and in particular those serving the food service and hospitality industries, the reduction of turnover was up to 90%. These tenants have been provided ongoing rent relief from BML. With the recent easing of restrictions by the state government, many are seeing an improvement in business and a winding back of the reduction in turnover which they have suffered. This optimism remains tempered, however, by the current situation in Victoria and New South Wales with recent spikes in community transmission of COVID-19.

Markets media stays positive during pandemic With the media looking to cover everything and anything associated with COVID-19 and its impact on our society, Brisbane Markets® has generated substantial media interest over the past few months. Since mid-March when lockdown restrictions were announced and panic buying set in, media outlets throughout Queensland wanted the scoop about how supplies of fresh produce were being affected. Brisbane Markets Limited (BML) was the first port of call for most media, with enquiries being fielded relating everything from produce supply, price fluctuations, flowers and how markets businesses were being affected. ABC’s Landline, hosted by Pip Courtney, ran a piece during May about the impacts of the restrictions on the hospitality industry and how some provedores had managed to pivot their business models from servicing restaurants, conference centres, airlines and cafes to packing fruit and vegetable boxes for home delivery. Peter Marinos of Big Michael’s Fruit and Vegetables was one such provedore and when interviewed by Channel 7 News late in June, said that making the shift from supplying restaurants was a necessary step to support growers who had nowhere to send their produce once the restaurants closed their doors. “Growers were hit with a brick wall where they’d normally be sending hundreds of boxes of produce to the markets and it dried up literally overnight,” said Mr Marinos.

Big shift in focus: Peter Marinos from Big Michael’s was interviewed by Channel 7 News in June.

“That’s why it was so important to us to get that produce, which was destined for restaurants, into the residential market,” he said. As the realities of social distancing and restrictions on visiting loved ones set in, the Brisbane Flower Market experienced an unprecedented increase in demand as consumers chose flowers as a means of showing affection during lockdown, which was a hot story in the lead up to Mother’s Day. ABC, 7 and 9 News crews all descended on the Flower Market to cover what turned out to be one of the biggest Mother’s Days on record, with all retail florists selling out over the weekend of 9-10 May. Media releases promoting the consumption of fresh and safe produce from independent retailers were also picked up, with a number of them appearing in The Courier Mail.

Reflecting on 30 years in the Market The trading floor of the Brisbane Produce Market hit another milestone on 1 July 2020 as wholesaler GNL Produce celebrated 30 years in the Market. Founded in 1990 by Geoff Haddock, Neale Cullen and GBL Wholesalers, GNL has never relied on business from the large supermarket chains and has always found stability in servicing the needs of the independents and provedores. “Smaller customers more sound relationships is how we’ve always built the business,” said Neale Cullen, the only remaining founder still involved in the business, as he reflected on the last 30 years and longer, having made his first trip to the Market 25 years before starting GNL. “My dad first brought me to the Market back in 1965. I loved it immediately and have been involved in the industry ever since,” said Mr Cullen, whose family was involved with Suburban Wholesale

Fruiterers before he began working for Ted Beaton and John Potter at E&J’s Produce. “It was at that time, through Lloyd’s contacts, that we had the opportunity to buy a section from Robbie Clarke and we went out on our own,” he said. Reflecting on the changes in the Markets over time, Mr Cullen said that the security of industry ownership of the site was one of the most significant. “Taking possession of the site has definitely been the most positive move that we’ve made as wholesalers. It also allowed us to stay in Rocklea, which was for the best in the long run,” Mr Cullen said. A staunch supporter of the wholesaler organisation, Brismark, Mr Cullen said that the access to support and services in Brisbane, particularly the Credit Service, were enormously beneficial to the successful operation of the markets.

“Talk to people in markets around Australia and for years the southern Markets have been envious of the set-up we have here in Brisbane and tried to follow the standard that we set,” he said. Closer to home, changes in the administration of GNL in recent years have seen the next generation of ownership take charge through new directors Jason Lower, Michael Pimm and Neale’s own son, Brett Cullen, which Neale says fills him with confidence for the future. “I think the younger generation is more proactive and responsive to change than we were say 10 years ago, so it looks good for the younger guys. But I’ll still be in 2-3 days a week. I still find it stimulating and I can’t imagine just sitting at home. Not yet,” Mr Cullen said.

Winter 2020 FRESH SOURCE 15


Raising the roof: BML has been progressively replacing aged roofs across the site.

Raising the roof for site upgrade In the latest stage of the roof upgrade project, Brisbane Markets Limited (BML) has completed the replacement of the main roof sheeting on buildings around the site as well as the installation of access stairs and walkways. In March, BML completed the replacement of the main roof sheeting on Building J, followed by Building Q in

April. During the works at Building Q, 3,920 m² of roof sheeting and insulation were installed. In May, a new walkway was installed on the roof of Building D, the latest in a series of similar walkways that have been installed on the roofs of buildings across the site allowing for safe, easy access for service providers conducting

maintenance and inspections on roofs and roof-mounted equipment. The walkways also ensure the newly-installed roof sheeting is protected. New roof access stairs were installed at the southern elevation of Building C, replacing the old roof access ladder to provide access to the services walkway on the roof of Building C.

Forklift Operator of the Year to go ahead in October Brisbane Produce Market’s 2020 Forklift Operator of the Year competition is set to proceed this year, albeit a little later than usual. The popular event, which has been delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions, will start with the observation period in September and the grand final scheduled to go ahead on Wednesday, 28 October. 2019 winner Na’a Finau encouraged forklift operators considering getting involved to make sure they register this year. “Do it! It’s good experience. It really tests your level of skill, and, most importantly, it is good fun,” he said. While the Forklift Operator of the Year competition will go ahead, Brisbane Markets Limited has cancelled the 2020


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Na’a Finau was jubilant when he was announced as the 2019 Brisbane Produce Market Forklift Operator of the Year.

Brisbane Produce Market Gala Dinner and Mango Auction, with the events set to continue in 2021. The Sunday Discovery Market, which closed at the beginning of COVID-19 restrictions, reopened on 12 July and the Brisbane Night Market will remain closed until further notice.

Women dive into diverse roles Women have always worked at the Brisbane Produce Market, but now they are moving out of the office and into more diverse roles than ever before. New primary wholesaler, Claire Crocker, started at Melbourne Markets with a focus on organic produce and her new Brisbane-based enterprise, Australian Ethical Growers, expands on this to include an ‘ethical food model’. “This covers everything from certified organic growers right through to conventional lines that might use heirloom or heritage varieties, low spray, water saving and other ethical food production techniques,” Ms Crocker said. Ms Crocker said she had noticed a difference in the reception she received when launching in Brisbane in April, compared to when she started out in the Melbourne Markets 12 years ago. “Overall, people in the Brisbane Produce Market have been immensely supportive and welcoming. I have been very impressed that it hasn’t been as much of a deal as it was in 2008,” Ms Crocker said. She said that she felt her new business would have a positive influence because it allowed other women to see a female in the role of primary wholesaler. “Horticulture and wholesaling are very traditional industries, however, there has always been a lot of women involved, they just tend to be employed in behind-the-scene roles,” Ms Crocker said. That’s certainly the case at Brisbane Produce Market, where there are a number of female owners and managers who are busy organising in the background.

Women in wholesaling: Claire Crocker (front) has opened Australian Ethical Growers in the Brisbane Produce Market, which she runs with her step-daughter Cara Mottek (back).

diversity in the types of jobs that are available,” Mrs Trimboli said. Susan Lewis started in an administration role at Murray Bros 22 years ago and worked her way up to General Manager. She said she has witnessed a shift in attitudes and more women taking on varied roles within the markets. “Over time, I have seen women being more vocal and involved in all sectors of the industry, and the men have been very supportive of this change. I have had some very good male role models who have guided and supported me to get to where I am today,” Mrs Lewis said.

Mary Marentis started Marendy and Sons, then known as Marendy’s Produce, with her husband Michael (Minas) in 1991. She has worked in administration from the very beginning and she has noticed a shift in the roles being undertaken by women.

Mrs Lewis said she faced pushback in her earlier years but learnt very quickly to stand her ground.

“It was always accepted that most of the people who work in the office are women. When we started I remember there was one female buyer and at the time it was very unusual,” Mrs Marentis said.

Perfection Fresh General Manager (Commercial and Brisbane), Jane Rowles, has been with the company since 1997.

“Now you see a lot more women working as principals and running their own sections. You regularly see female forklift drivers, you never did when we started. It’s just not unusual to have women in those roles anymore. “I don’t think I’ve seen a female truck driver here yet, so that’s one to keep an eye out for!” Wholesaler principal, Debbie Trimboli, has been in the industry since she was 17 years old and started Romeo’s Marketing (QLD) in 2006 with her husband John. “Since I’ve been here there has always been women in sales roles, there’s just more than there used to be, but in general there’s a lot more women working in the Market now,” Mrs Trimboli said. Mrs Trimboli said that while horticulture and wholesaling have been traditionally male-dominated industries in the past, she would encourage her daughters to join her in the family business. “I’d love the girls to come in when they’re ready. The industry is more interesting than it used to be and there is a real

“I learned to not be afraid of the challenges when in confronting situations and this created mutual respect,” she said.

“Perfection Fresh has always advocated for women in business and the industry. When I first started there were eight people working in the office and six were female. Now, we have women in a variety of roles from forklift operators to executive positions and everything in between,” Mrs Rowles said. It is the trading floor where women are starting to come into their own in more visible numbers, with female forklift operators, buyers and salespeople a common sight. One woman who is no stranger on the trading floor is Shaunagh Delaney from Favco, who has worked as a salesperson at the Market for 35 years. “I was the second female salesperson in the Brisbane Produce Market and at the time many people thought it was a man’s world,” Ms Delaney said. “Initially, they didn’t really take me seriously, but hard work, determination and building a strong grower base has changed that. I faced a bit of push back at times but I certainly didn’t let it stop me and some of those people who did push back in the early days became my best customers.”

Winter 2020 FRESH SOURCE 17


PMA A-NZ welcomes new Chair for Board Katie de Villiers, Head of Sales at One Harvest, has been appointed Chair of PMA Australia-New Zealand Limited (PMA A-NZ) replacing Michael Franks who has retired by rotation. Ms de Villiers has been an active member of PMA A-NZ since joining the produce industry 11 years ago. She is passionate about attracting and developing talent, so in 2016 she joined the PMA A-NZ Talent Taskforce, and set to work igniting the passions of future industry leaders. Ms de Villiers has been widely recognised for her work mentoring students through the PMA A-NZ Career Pathways program, and her commitment to these students has kick started some great careers. In 2018, Katie joined the PMA A-NZ Board and has served as Vice Chair for 18 months. “I’m looking forward to increasing my involvement with PMA A-NZ, and

NBN flips the switch After an extensive wait, connections to the NBN network are now available at the Brisbane Markets®. Tenants who are using ADSL, 4G, or other internet services looking to migrate to the NBN can now do so by contacting their preferred Internet Service Provider (ISP) and signing up for an NBN plan.

working with the Board and staff to ensure we continue to deliver value to members in this ever-changing environment. I would also like to acknowledge and thank Michael for the significant contribution he has made to PMA A-NZ during his time as Chair,” Ms de Villiers said. Ms de Villiers is an experienced produce industry professional who will bring her relationship management, commercial negotiation and business leadership skills to PMA A-NZ as the industry body continues to navigate the changing needs of its members. Ben Hoodless, General Manager – Vegetable Seeds Division ANZ for Bayer Crop Science, has been instated as Vice Chair of the Board. According to PMA A-NZ CEO, Darren Keating, a critical component of the PMA ethos is volunteerism, a character that Ms de Villiers has demonstrated

New PMA A-NZ Chair, Katie de Villiers from One Harvest.

repeatedly throughout her involvement with the Association. “I welcome Katie’s appointment as Board Chair, and appointment of Ben as Vice Chair. The contribution of our volunteer leaders is a critical component of progressing the Association’s vision to bring together the global produce and floral community to grow a healthier world,” Mr Keating said.

Brisbane Markets Limited’s Technology and Network Manager, Luke Williams, said that active ADSL connection will remain active for a period of up to 18 months, but that after that period, ADSL services will be retired. “It’s important that Brisbane Markets® tenants use this time to look into options for their web connectivity and analyse the market as there are no current restrictions on potential NBN providers who can supply the Brisbane Markets® site,” Mr Williams said.

Connections incoming: the NBN has finally landed at Brisbane Markets.

Make the connection DESIGN • WEB • PRINT



Winter 2020

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Local flowers the top pick for Mother’s Day Mother’s Day 2020 proved to be a once in a lifetime event for flower growers and florists across Australia, proving that flowers are a resilient product during the good times and the bad. Tenants at Brisbane Flower Market experienced unprecedented demand for flowers in the lead up to Mother’s Day, leading to all businesses selling out of stock by the end of Saturday, 9 May. When COVID-19 restrictions started, the Brisbane Flower Market was initially hit very hard by the closure of weddings and events. But as the reality of not seeing loved ones set in amongst the community, tenants experienced an upturn in online delivery orders culminating in their biggest Mother’s Day ever with many using flowers as a way to reach out to others in isolation.

Mum’s mason jar: Just some of the selection on offer from Brisbane Market Flowers in the lead up to Mother’s Day.

With up to 50% of flowers sold in Australia imported from overseas, the reduction air traffic and increase in airfreight costs caused by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic impacted supplies over April and May. The combination of limited airfreight arrivals, bushfires affecting summer production and the increase in flower sales, left growers and wholesalers struggling to keep up with the retail demand for flowers in the wake of Mother’s Day. The colder months have slowed down Australian flower production and it is expected to take until September for locally-grown flower supplies to fully recover. With people returning to the workplace in June, normality returned to the industry with a lessening in demand. Imports stabilised and, while some individual items like preserved flowers were difficult to come by, stocks are now replenishing.

Rows of olive grown on the Sunshine Coast by Djirang Plantation for cut foliage 20 FRESH SOURCE

Winter 2020

Flower supplies return to normal winter levels After a bumper Mother’s Day and a shortage of flowers in its wake, supplies are now returning to levels commonly associated with winter season. While imports have not quite returned to pre-COVID levels, they are much improved. Local stocks drained by the Mother’s Day rush are slowly returning, however, cold weather has hampered the progress with growers estimating a full return to supply come spring. Preserved flowers are proving to be very popular but while demand is high, supplies are low as many preserved varieties are sourced from China. Brisbane Flower Market tenants are also reporting an increased popularity of potted plants in the Market with strong supplies available. Cymbidium orchid plants have arrived a little later than usual this year, but this potted flowering beauty always proves popular.

In season over winter

No need to tiptoe through these tulips found at Lynch Market Flowers.

Bulbs are in season and very popular over the winter months, including the sweet-smelling earlicheers, freesias and hyacinth, along with tulips, daffodils and jonquils. Poppies have bloomed early, and are a nice treat to add to the selection of dahlias, roses, carnations, double asters, daphne, stock and lisanthus. Heading into spring, we will start to see locally grown peonies, anemones, and ranunculus joining the selection. In foliage, olive loves the cooler weather and is looking particularly luscious at the moment. Forest Gem, a hardy Queensland native with a lacey upright texture, is also looking good. Mock orange, a dark green and uncomplicated foliage is always popular at a good price point. Winter is the perfect time for flowering grasses available in beautiful range of colours, including yellow, reds and neutrals. For a long-lasting winter display pair flowering grasses with fresh or dried fan palms.

Sweet scented earlicheer are plentiful in the Brisbane Flower Market over winter. These were spotted at Flowerlovers.

Events on pause While September is traditionally the beginning of the wedding season many couples have already postponed the nuptials until 2021. In the short term, those weddings and events that do continue will be smaller and brides are expected to be more budget conscious in the short to medium term. Large floral arrangements and arbours are likely to be out of reach for many businesses and consumers for some time yet. In event styling and arrangement trends, neutrals and natural colours are proving popular with an emphasis on arrangements that combine dried flowers, wildflowers and natives with textured, unusual elements like wheat and cotton. Deep red dahlias locally grown by Redlands Fresh Flowers.

Winter 2020 FRESH SOURCE 21

Central Markets are important links joining on e vast horticulture supply chain. Fresh Perspectives provid es an insight into this rich and varied industry, focusi ng on the characters, and characteristics, of the wo rld of horticulture.

Fresh produce a family affair Horticulture, and indeed agriculture in general, is a generational industry. In Australia, 95% of farms are familyowned and this pattern continues throughout the supply chain. Resilience is a key attribute that has been handed down through the generations, an attribute that has certainly helped over the past 12 months with growers battling bushfire, drought and COVID-19 to ensure Australians can still access locally-grown fresh produce. Brent Attard is a second generation farmer who, along with his wife Julie and father Tony, has grown zucchinis, capsicums, watermelons and rockmelons in the Bundaberg area since 2002. “The biggest thing my generation has learnt from previous generations is work ethic and resilience,” Mr Attard said. “They have the experience of having been through everything before, so when you face tough times they are able to say everything is going to be okay, things will get better.” Fifth generation fruiterers Luke Boulus and his brother, Matthew, have run Westridge Fruit and Vegetables in Toowoomba for 13 years. Originally, their parents tried to dissuade them from a job in fruit and vegetables, but the pair couldn’t ignore their passion. “Dad wanted us to do something different, he felt that the industry was getting harder, but now he works with us and backs our business 100%. I think deep down he loves that we followed in his footsteps,” Mr Boulus said. The Montague name has been synonymous with apples since 1948, and in 2006 Hamish Montague came to the Brisbane Produce Market to head the

company’s Queensland operations. “My grandfather started with market gardens growing fruit, vegetables and flowers, then he moved into apple orchards, and then cold storage. Now our focus is purely on horticulture: growing, packing, marketing, importing, and exporting,” Mr Montague said.

Meeting the challenge of a health crisis The growing bureaucracy and red tape associated with having a farming business and hiring staff is the biggest change, and challenge, Mr Attard has seen over the past 20 years. “Horticulture has become a business rather than a farm. You’re not just out growing and sending produce to market. We probably spend just as much time in the office as we do in the paddock,” Mr Attard said. “When I was growing up, no one even talked about the cost of labour, it was an insignificant part of our input cost. Now it’s all we can think about: how can we lower our dependence on labour and our labour costs?” “We have to complete an enormous amount of paperwork and, at the end of the day, we need to be producing food in the best way we can and sometimes ticking and flicking forms keeps you distracted from the primary objectives of your business.” The rise of the COVID-19 health crisis has added to the administrative burden on growers. “Probably the biggest complaint within the whole industry at the moment is that we are drowning in regulation,” Mr Attard said.

“Over the past few years we have all spent a lot of money on quality assurance, so a lot of the information we had to include in the COVID-19 health plan was already covered. We already had hand sanitiser points and hygiene practises in place, but now we have another form to fill out.” Along with the additional administration involved in working through the health crisis, various sectors and individual businesses have been affected in different ways. For Mr Attard, COVID-19 occurred just when he was starting his autumn watermelon production. “Based on feedback from our wholesalers, with no cruise ships and no food service industry we lost about 50% of our sales overnight. COVID-19 had a detrimental effect on the fruit side of our business, while we experienced a small upward trend in our vegetable sales due to retail demand,” Mr Attard said. Mr Montague witnessed a similar impact, with wholesalers who focused on food service and restaurants more negatively affected than those who serviced the retail industry. “Sales have definitely been impacted because of closures in airlines and hospitality, however, not as bad as it has been for some industries,” Mr Montague said. “There is a lot of growth in healthy eating and home delivery-type businesses, so there are some outliers who are now really busy, because they completely changed their business model and are getting some really good results.”

Winter 2020 FRESH SOURCE 23


Hamish Montague Montague Queensland

Luke Boulus Westridge Fruit and Vegetables

Finding opportunity within the pandemic

“With people working from home and the closures of restaurants and cafes, people are eating more meals within the home and being more creative with the types of produce they are buying and cooking,” Mr Boulus said.

Mr Montague said that the health crisis had prompted changes within his organisation, with a focus on looking closely at the way the business has operated for the past 25 years and questioning whether it was still the right way to go about it. “We’ve looked at changing behaviours and the way we do business to reduce costs throughout our supply chain, and improving the quality of product to our customers, which is obviously of paramount importance,” Mr Montague said. “We have been forced to make some changes, however, now we are trying to see if we can get benefits out of cost cutting measures, which will hopefully have a positive impact on our balance sheets.” Being on the frontline, Mr Boulus said that flexibility has helped his business weather the storm of COVID-19. “Before the health crisis, we had a small online store presence, but since COVID-19 hit we’ve invested a lot of time and labour into our online store and now it includes every single product that we stock in store,” Mr Boulus said. “We’re seeing a lot more demand for fresh produce. At the beginning of the health crisis we saw massive growth in our online ordering and home delivery services, and we’ve been able to retain at least a quarter of those new customers.” Mr Boulus said it was exciting to see consumers become more adventurous with their purchases.


Winter 2020

“There’s a real renaissance of people wanting to try new things and they are willing to experiment with different produce at home. They are happy to go to their greengrocer and say: what’s in season at the moment, what’s something different I can try, and how do you cook them?”

Changing public perceptions With the challenges that COVID-19 has presented also comes an opportunity to harness a positive change in the public’s perception of farmers. “Currently, there’s awareness in the public that we have a growing population and we need to have a reliable supply of fresh and nutritious food for everyone. There seems to be more appreciation for what we do in the public eye – we’re moving in the right direction,” Mr Attard said. “I think the major challenge going forward is the cost of production is going up all the time, we’re going to have to face that very soon. The gap between the amount of money we need to be profitable and the price consumers can afford to pay is narrowing. “If you ask the general public, they would they prefer to buy Australian made and grown. But when it comes to actually purchasing, they still buy the cheapest thing. We need to move from appreciation of the work we do to an

Brent Attard Swan Ridge Farms

understanding of the costs associated with providing fresh, Australian-grown fruit and vegetables,” Mr Attard said. Mr Boulus is positive about the future, saying it is up to retailers to be forever evolving and improving their business to keep attracting shoppers to their store. “We have to work to our strengths, which are product knowledge, customer service and providing customers with an overall experience in our stores. We’re all human, we all like having warm and fuzzy connections with people,” Mr Boulus said. “Small businesses like ours have been able to be nimble and adjust to the new way of doing business during the health crisis, so hopefully the general public will continue to support local businesses rather than go back to the larger corporations.”

Queensland’s heart of fresh produce Over the last 14 years, Mr Montague has witnessed some big changes in the way Brisbane Markets® operates. “Brisbane Markets® is definitely a lot more professional and a lot more safetyorientated than when I first arrived. At the time, I think our warehouse was the only place that actually made people wear safety vests and forklift operators wear seatbelts,” Mr Montague said. “Physically, there are a lot more significant structures like our new Montague Produce Facility (Building C1) as well as the continued development of the South Gate area. The Central Trading Area now has the roof over it, which was a great move and long overdue,” Mr Montague said.

Both Mr Montague and Mr Boulus mentioned Brismark’s Credit Service as being a large benefit of working at Brisbane Produce Market. Mr Montague has been on the Brismark Board since 2011 and said it made sense to be a member of the organisation if you wanted to be a primary wholesaler at Brisbane Markets®. “Brismark has implemented a great system, much better than the other states from what I can see,” Mr Montague said. Mr Boulus has witnessed the difference the Credit Service makes first hand. “As kids we would go around to everyone that Dad had bought from and get a printed docket of our purchases. Then, at the end of the week, Dad would write a cheque to every single person,” Mr Boulus said. “Now we are able to make one payment and then the money is distributed to all the wholesalers, which makes our business accounting so much easier.” According to Mr Montague, Central Markets are the barometer of the pricing for the rest of the country and provide a vital, centralised distribution point for fresh produce.

“Generally, there’s no way that growers could clear all of their crop grades if they didn’t use the Central Markets. Supermarkets have very strict size and quality guidelines, which generally don’t allow for second grade, under or oversized fruit,” Mr Montague said. “Dealing with apples, for example, there’s always big ones and small ones that don’t fit within the guidelines. Furthermore, Central Markets provide the opportunity to serve all different customer types including independent retailers, cafes, juice bars, restaurants, mines, resorts, and hospitals.” Mr Attard supplies all the Central Markets in all states of Australia, including Brisbane Produce Market where he sells his fruit lines through Lind and Sons and his vegetables through Shamrock Marketing. “Wholesalers are able to find the right fit for your produce and help you avoid problems that can arise when you need to deal directly with people,” Mr Attard said. “We’ve got a very good relationship with all our wholesalers, particularly the ones in Brisbane. Many of them, I’ve known since I was ten years old when I used to visit Brisbane Markets® with my dad. It’s

important to have a good relationship so you can talk through any issues that arise.” Mr Boulus also has fond memories of attending the Markets with his father as a child. “We’d sleep on the way down and were in awe of the Markets. That was the start of our love for the fruit and vegetable industry,” Mr Boulus said. “Dad has been buying from certain growers for years, as did my grandfather, and now we are buying from the same people so it’s a real generational undertaking.”

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Winter 2020 FRESH SOURCE 25

Shop local to veg in this winter We all know that eating fresh fruit and vegetables is vital for a healthy body. We also know that the greater the variety of fruit and vegetables in our diet, the more chance we have of getting all the nutrients and fibre we need. But did you know that where you buy from is also vitally important? Now more than ever, consumers are motivated to eat fresh and stay healthy. Consumers are thinking local with their attention being drawn towards supporting local businesses in their community.

Recipes cards were created to provide simple-to-make hearty home cooked meals. The recipe cards were provided to all the ABC retailers for customers to pick up while in store. Retailers are being urged to leverage the recipe cards by creating pre-packaged recipe packs to provide inspiration and convenience to their customers. The ‘Shop Local to Veg in this Winter’ campaign gently reminds customers that cooking at home with your partner or kids provides not only an opportunity to reconnect but also valuable life skills.

Project planning, reading, maths and science are all educational by-products of learning to cook in the kitchen with your family. The ‘Shop Local to Veg in this Winter’ consumer campaign will be showcased across the country using a range of channels including radio, online, social media and in-store activation through point of sale merchandise. The campaign aims to entice consumers to increase the consumption of vegetables and broaden their repertoire by trying different winter vegetables.

In response to this, the national retail program A better choice! (ABC) has developed a consumer-based campaign for independent retailers with the tagline: ‘Shop Local to Veg in this Winter’. This campaign is carefully crafted to position ABC retailers as THE source of freshness, quality and service when it comes to the purchase of produce. Local independent fruit shops are an essential service that play a strong part in the local community food supply chain. ABC retailers are spoilt for choice when it comes to the range and variety of local produce currently on offer at the Brisbane Produce Market. To drive consumption a series of consumer-based newsletters will be distributed throughout the promotion. These newsletters will encourage customers to expand their use of fruit and vegetables through warm winter recipe ideas. Some of the featured recipes are Potato and Corn Chowder, Roasted Eggplant with Zucchini Salad and Tahini Yoghurt (created exclusively by Callum Hann), Chinese Winter Soup and Cinnamon Baked Pears.


Winter 2020

Veg in this winter: this Roasted Eggplant with Zucchini Salad and Tahini Yoghurt was created exclusively for A better choice! by chef Callum Hann.

Charlie’s voted best delivery box Delivered to your home or office, fresh boxes of fruit and vegetables can be a great alternative to feed the family without visiting your local fruit shop. During a time where we are all practicing social distancing, The Courier Mail asked readers to nominate and vote for Brisbane’s best fresh produce delivery service, with the win going to Charlie’s Fruit Market at Everton Park. Charlie’s has been a family-owned business since 1974. Originally bought by Tony and Kay Tabet, Charlie’s has now been passed down to their sons, Michael and Johnny. In charge for 20 years, Michael and Johnny have worked hard to modernise the shop and extend the business, including keeping Charlie’s Fruit Market open 24/7 (for those 3am fruit cravings) and offering an extensive range of organic and vegan products in addition to their general fruit and vegetable section. Charlie’s works hard to keep their customers satisfied, including offering a seven day quality guarantee on produce. Charlie’s also provides fruit and vegetables to restaurants, hotels and schools in Brisbane. The store’s range of plantbased foods – from Charlie’s Raw Squeeze (a healthy juice bar) to Moofree Burgers (100% plant-based burgers) is always expanding, reflecting the way modern consumers eat and shop.

Brisbane’s best fruit and vegetable delivery box, as voted by The Courier Mail readers, went to Charlie’s Fruit Market in Everton Park. Pictured from left to right: Michael, Tony and Johnny Tabet.

Despite the modern changes, some things remain the same – Charlie’s continues to support the local community including donating to fundraisers for local schools, bowls clubs and charities. They show their appreciation for every customer who gives back to the Everton Park family business with excellent customer service and top-notch fresh, seasonal produce. Now that’s A better choice!

Aussies buying more juicy citrus Research on this season’s flavour profiles conducted by Citrus Australia has revealed dry conditions last year leading into this season’s harvest has led to sweeter, juicier fruit. Citrus Australia CEO, Nathan Hancock, said this was great news for all Australians. “There are fresh, Australian grown, juicy oranges and mandarins, and really flavoursome lemons, limes and grapefruit in stores across the country now,” Mr Hancock said. “All citrus varieties are packed with Vitamin C, which helps boost your immunity against colds and flu leading into winter. One orange, mandarin or lemon contains your entire daily recommended intake of Vitamin C, as well as antioxidants and fibre necessary for a healthy body.”

many chefs also utilising lemon as an alternative to salt when cooking. “Australian consumers have countless reasons why they love Australian-grown citrus and they can be assured there will be plenty of high quality Aussie oranges, mandarins, lemons, limes and grapefruit all year,” he said. “Our growers and packers all around the country are working hard right now, picking the best fruit in the world and getting it to a store near you. It’s satisfying for them to see great demand and appreciation for Australian grown citrus.”

Retailers have reported strong sales of all citrus varieties this year and Mr Hancock attributed this to the taste, nutritional value and versatility of the fruits. “We know kids love snacking on mandarins. They are easy to peel, seedless and naturally sweet. Parents can be assured that one ‘mandy’ a day will meet their child’s recommended Vitamin C requirements,” Mr Hancock said. “Oranges provide another great snack for the family. The peelable skin can be easily removed at home and simple orange slices are easy to snack on. Add them to your weekly shop, citrus is great in the fruit bowl or fridge at this time of year and they keep very well – that is, unless they’re eaten in the first few days.” Mr Hancock said lemons and limes are becoming increasingly popular as natural flavours to add to hot and cold drinks, with

Your daily dose: one mandarin a day will ensure your child is getting their recommended daily vitamin C intake.

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Getting the low down from those who know

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The autumn campaign from A better choice! (ABC) encouraged customers to seek out fruit and vegetable experts. The ‘Go To Those Who Know!’ campaign centred ABC independent retailers as THE source of information, knowledge and great advice when it comes to everything about fruit and vegetables. Being part of the local community, ABC retailers know their produce and their customers as well. They treat all customers with friendly care and are always dishing out little bite-sized life hacks to enhance a customer’s in-store experience. The campaign featured television advertising through the Channel Nine network on such programs as the Today

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2/3/20 4:42 pm

In the know: The print advertisement for ABC’s ‘Go To Those Who Know’ campaign.

Show, Nine News Early and Morning Editions, Travel Guides and the premiere episode of Lego Masters season two. This episode of Lego Masters was the highest-rating reality TV premiere and is Australia’s number one rated program within the campaign’s core customer demographic. The commercial depicted a local fruiterer rejecting poor quality fruit

while a voiceover reinforces the message that an independent retailer will only accept quality produce in their store. Consumers are told that their local independent fruit and vegetable retailers are the experts on quality fruit and vegetables and that they should go to your local fruit shop…. It’s A better choice!

It’s time to discover a better choice Shopping and eating local is a better choice. Launched in 2018, the A better choice! (ABC) retail program is a joint initiative by Fresh Markets Australia and the Central Markets Association of Australia. The program is already supporting more than 500 fruit and vegetable business owners across Australia. ABC presents an opportunity for consumers to come together to help create a positive future for business owners, produce wholesalers and the local growers who supply them.

By shopping at Your Local Fruit Shop you are making…

The ABC team has surveyed thousands of Australian consumers and identified what matters most to them when it comes to purchasing fruit and vegetables. When you shop local, you’re getting better quality, freshness, service and range of produce, which is hand selected by the store owners.

A better choice!

A better choice of available products A better choice for freshness

A better choice for knowledge and service A better choice to support your local community

Through a strategic national awareness initiative, the ABC retail program has already reached millions of consumers and will continue to promote the benefits of shopping local. ABC is busy supporting retailers with a comprehensive communications program, including complimentary photography and profiling of your local store. If you haven’t already signed up to be a part of ABC, now is the time to make A better choice! 28 FRESH SOURCE

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A better choice for you and your family

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A better choice for consumers and independent fruit and vegetable retailers.

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See instore for our great winter Veg-In recipes!

Find Your Local at


Food to put you in a good mood Hort Innovation’s latest consumer campaign focuses on fruit, vegetables and nuts providing a natural mood booster. The Good Mood Food campaign, in an effort to support growers, is designed to evolve and grow including the ability to introduce produce due to seasonality and occasionality. Consumer behavioural data available through the Hort Innovation levy-funded Harvest to Home initiative highlighted that overall fresh produce volumes were up 5% compared to March last year. However, performance at the category level has been mixed with consumers responding to competing influences concerning price, perishability, and discretion.

demand for fruit, vegetables, and nuts in a post-COVID 19 environment. “It’s extremely important that we promote the importance of eating fresh Australian produce to all Australians, which in turn supports growers,” Mr Brand said. “The campaign is developed so it can be extended and focus on seasonality or moments where Australians will be looking for increased health and wellbeing or eating options. The design of this campaign provides opportunities for other, individual industries to benefit from using its content to amplify their own unique consumer positioning.” To see the first television advertisement for the campaign visit

Growth in fresh produce sales have been widely outpaced by frozen and canned products of which a greater share is imported. Furthermore, only 5.4% of the Australian adult population are meeting their fruit and vegetable nutritional requirements. The campaign is encouraging people to look after themselves mentally to boost their mood as well as promote good physical health. Hort Innovation CEO, Matt Brand, said the campaign grew out of the need to support growers across Australia and stimulate

Beat the blues: A still from the first television advertisement for Hort Innovation’s The Good Mood Food campaign.

Ripe time for consumer behaviour change By David Thomson, CEO, Growcom

As Australians perceive the threat of COVID-19 to be gradually reducing, they are reaching less for the hand sanitiser and more for fresh produce to improve their health and wellbeing. Growcom believes the Coronavirus pandemic provides a unique and important chance to remind the public of the importance of healthy eating, the established links between fresh produce and wellbeing, and the vital role Queensland horticulture plays. With the health motive of consumers currently magnified, the kitchen has come into its own as a creative outlet during lockdown. It is for these reasons that Growcom has launched our Eat Yourself to Health campaign with two clear and simple messages for consumers to Eat Up! and Branch Out! Eat Up! because as a society we consume nowhere near as much fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts as is recommended. And Branch Out! because of the wellestablished link between a varied diet 30 FRESH SOURCE

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including a wide range of fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts, and both improved gut health and boosted immunity. We are asking individuals to strengthen their immune systems by branching out in their diets and adding more fruits, vegetables and nuts to their shopping baskets.

For more information on the Eat Yourself to Health campaign, visit campaign or follow us on Facebook and Instagram via @eatyourselftohealthau.

Now could in fact be the best opportunity we have to establish real and longer-term dietary behaviour change well past the point of a pandemic. Growcom is collaborating with fellow industry bodies, nutritionists, public health communicators, and growers to ensure we’re promoting the most accurate information and practical advice on how exactly you can ‘Eat Yourself to Health’ with fresh produce. As part of the grassroots campaign, we are encouraging growers to share online with consumers their own unique COVID Cooking Challenge, encouraging creativity in the kitchen by incorporating a wider variety of fresh produce into their diet.

Eat yourself to health features a range of shareable content to get the healthy eating message to consumers.

Retirement beckons for Selwyn Snell Selwyn Snell, chair of Hort Innovation, is set to retire from the Board in November after 11 years of service. The announcement comes in the lead up to the research and development corporation’s Annual General Meeting, where Mr Snell would be required to stand down and reapply if he wished to continue. According to Mr Snell, the time will be right to say farewell to the company he’s been a part of for more than a decade, with total retirement on the horizon. “It’s been a genuine privilege to lead the Board of Hort Innovation for all these years, and to help set the company’s course in delivering research, marketing and trade activities for the profitability and sustainability of horticulture’s producers,” he said. Mr Snell said he recalls his first address to the horticulture sector as Chair of Hort Innovation, then Horticulture Australia Limited, in 2009. “I remember talking about how the main driver for success and productivity in the sector would be unity. That’s something that’s remained a focus for me ever since, and I think that’s come through in the changes we’ve seen in the sector, and in the initiatives that Hort Innovation continues to deliver,” Mr Snell said. One of the ‘unity highlights’ Mr Snell is most proud of is helping Australian horticulture step onto the international stage in a strongly unified way – particularly at the yearly, high-profile Asia Fruit Logistica trade event. “When I first attended Asia Fruit Logistica in 2010, Australian producers and individual industries were

competing for attention, and the country as a whole was poorly represented,” he said. “We changed that so that the sector came together under one Aussie umbrella, and today we still have the most coordinated and productive area of the whole event. “This was some of our initial work in the export space, and from there we grew to incorporate a robust market and trade arm into the company, which is now very active and driving good outcomes for the sector.” Brisbane Markets Limited CEO, Andrew Young, thanked Mr Snell for his contribution to horticulture. “In his many years of service at Hort Innovation, Selwyn has overseen many changes within his organisation and the industry in general. He has always been prepared to listen and promote the interests of the horticulture industry,” Mr Young said. AUSVEG Chair, Bill Bulmer, paid tribute to Mr Snell’s steadfast dedication to the industry during his time as Chair of Hort Innovation, saying that the two organisations have worked closely to

Saying farewell: Selwyn Snell will be retiring from his position as chair of Hort Innovations in November.

ensure growers received the best return on their levy investment in research and development. “AUSVEG and Hort Innovation have a constructive relationship, which is important for growers as AUSVEG works with Hort Innovation to ensure grower levies are invested in meaningful, productive research and development to help grow the productivity and value of the industry,” said Mr Bulmer. “AUSVEG and Hort Innovation have enjoyed a fruitful relationship during Selwyn’s tenure as Chair. On behalf of the AUSVEG Board I wish him well in his future endeavours and look forward to a constructive relationship with Hort Innovation’s next Chair.”

Call for feedback AUSVEG is calling for feedback to help guide its agenda for the year via its Grower Survey. To have your say on significant issues such as the research and development levy, and help set the priorities for AUSVEG’s advocacy agenda. Visit to complete the survey.

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New market development role for avocados In a move to proactively increase domestic demand, Avocados Australia has appointed a new Market Development Manager. Avocados Australia CEO, John Tyas, said as production increased, the industry needed to do more to make the most of the opportunity. “We have employed our first Market Development Manager, Hayleigh Dawson, to focus on quality, supply dynamics and promotion. The key here, is this role will focus on leveraging existing activities for greater benefits across the value chain,” Mr Tyas said. “We’re not looking to reinvent the wheel because there is already excellent marketing, research and development

work taking place. We want that work to be as effective as possible, well integrated and communicated across the value chain to ramp up consumption of Australian avocados in our domestic market.” Ms Dawson has worked in fresh produce supply management since graduating with a Bachelor of Agribusiness and Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Queensland in 2016. Ms Dawson grew up with a love for agriculture, with a strong history of family farming. “My ag background wasn’t in horticulture, and it was attending the Hort Connections event in 2016 as part of the PMA Career Pathways Program that inspired me to pursue a career in

Avocados Australia’s new Market Development Manager, Hayleigh Dawson.

fresh produce; I have never looked back,” Ms Dawson said. “I am very passionate about the industry and believe there are so many opportunities for young people in produce. I understand the importance of the task ahead in continuing to drive consumption of Australian avocados for the industry and am excited for the challenges ahead.”

Farewell time for reflection By Gail Woods, General Manager, Brismark

This is my last Fresh Source column as Brismark’s General Manager. While it is sad to leave Brismark, I will still have a strong connection because, on 1 July, I took on the role of Fresh Markets Australia (FMA) General Manager. FMA is the national industry body representing wholesalers and supporting businesses in Australia’s five central fruit and vegetable markets. This is a natural transition as I have been actively working for FMA as part of the secretariat function provided by Brismark for the past seven years. The Brismark Board has always taken a ‘collaboration not confrontation’ approach to their leadership and actions. I applaud their attitude and have always modelled that ethos. I started working for Brismark just before the flood event in early 2013, where I saw first-hand the effort of Brismark members and the markets landlord work hand in glove to protect the markets community from the affects of potential inundation. Unlike 2011, thankfully, the flood waters only


Winter 2020

lapped at the markets’ boundary, but the collegiality and common purpose that was clearly evident has stuck with me as a reminder that working together is far better than being adversarial. This collaboration was again evident with the VGI hostile takeover bid, when Brismark members gave the clear message that they want to direct their own destiny through industry ownership, rather than sell-out to a short-seller with no interest in the future of our industry. We must never lose sight of the power of industry ownership. Another event that comes to mind is when wholesalers from across the country were again subject to the Australian Government’s edict when the new Horticulture Code of Conduct rolled out in 2017. Over the course of the preceding 18 months, Brismark showed strong leadership on behalf of its members and the wider wholesale community, supporting a national campaign to ensure that the Code was as workable, procompetitive and commercially fair as possible, which was largely successful.

Collaboration was again apparent when a significant 10-year milestone was achieved by Brismark through the successful negotiation of leases on behalf of markets tenants with Brisbane Markets Limited in 2014. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to serve this organisation as well as Brismark’s members. I truly feel the fulfilment of the last seven and a half years has given me valuable experience in the workings of the horticulture supply chain and the wholesale sector specifically. I want to thank Brismark Chairman, Gary Lower, the Brismark Board, and CEO Andrew Young for their ongoing support and their good governance of the organisation. I would also like to thank Brismark’s managers and staff for their contributions. I congratulate Alex Lazarou on his appointment to the role of Brismark General Manger and wish him every success. I look forward to serving the wholesale sector into the future through my role at FMA.

VegNET RDOs ready for second phase Hort Innovation has commenced the second phase of VegNET, the vegetable industry extension program, which funds ten regional development officers located across Australia to support vegetable growers in growing healthy crops and develop successful, profitable businesses. In Queensland, the VegNET research development officers (RDO) are partnered with Bowen Gumlu Growers Association (BGGA), Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers (BFVG) and Lockyer Valley Growers Inc (LVGI). Managing Director of the BFVG, Bree Grima, has been a VegNET project manager and RDO since the program’s commencement in 2016. “VegNET is about connecting producers with research and development that is applicable to their region and commodity,” Ms Grima said. “We encourage researchers that have expertise on specific topics to come to the region and share their findings with producers with a focus on practise change to aid in increased productivity and profitability. We can assist with trials, coordinating workshops, field days and webinars in addition to sharing research and development, in a format that makes sense.”

Each RDO will develop a regional extension plan for the period 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2025, which will include the identification of each region’s key priority issues, key regional resources and links that will be critical to ensuring that growers receive assistance, as well as information that will help them grow better crops and operate more efficient and profitable businesses. Depending on each region’s specific plan, VegNET RDOs will deliver tailored and targeted extension activities to meet the needs of their region’s growers. Ms Hall said she was thrilled to be a part of the next phase. “I have a research background and I think in this new project, I will be able to use that insight from a career in research to extend great research into great outcomes for the vegetable industry,” Ms Hall said. Ms Walker and Ms Grima said they were looking forward to working closely with producers to develop a regional strategy with national significance. “I’m encouraging producers to take an active role in documenting their research and development requirements so that we can see more projects and funding delivered with real applicability to their farm enterprise,” Ms Grima said.

Zara Hall took up her RDO role with the LVGI in August 2019, but she had had her eye on the job for a few years. “I wanted to work with them ever since attending the Lockyer Growers Expo in 2016. I was just so impressed by the work that went into the variety trials and it made me really pay attention,” Ms Hall said. “The industry is very focused and driven so growers will ring and say, I think we should progress this idea, or we need to look into that as a concept. It is not up to me to necessarily have the answers, but I’m a central person to coordinate and pursue opportunities as they arise and that allows us to keep advancing.” Eilis Walker took on the RDO role at BGGA in November 2019. “I love engaging with growers, having a laugh and learning more about peoples’ businesses. I really love to see the passion that people have for their businesses and their passion for fresh, quality Australian produce,” Ms Walker said.

VegNET project manager Bree Grima has been a part of the vegetable extension network since it began in 2016.

Ms Grima and Ms Hall agree, listing their interactions with growers, and their sense of humour, as the best part of the job. “I really enjoy one-on-one engagement with producers to understand the pinch points in their businesses which may impact on decisions to make or implement changes to their practice,” Ms Grima said. Ms Hall said she felt privileged to be able to work in a fast paced, energetic and innovative industry. “I am amazed by the diversity of businesses and talented people in this industry. I really enjoy capturing some of those stories and sharing them with a wider audience,” Ms Hall said. The next phase of VegNET will see the RDOs transition from acting as conduits of technical insight to becoming enablers of knowledge. This will allow them to become an effective resource to address regionally-based industry challenges.

Lockyer Valley research development officer Zara Hall on the job.

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Month-long celebration of organics Australian Organic Awareness Month will once again celebrate certified organics this September. Australian Organic Awareness Month is Australia’s largest campaign to generate awareness and education around the term ‘organic’, whilst also promoting the certified organic industry in Australia. The Australian Organic market is now worth an estimated $2.6 billion and is growing year on year. By helping to promote the certified organic industry, the campaign supports the farmers, processers, manufacturers and retailers who work hard behind the scenes. This year, Australian Organic Awareness Month is being celebrated for the whole month of September and is sponsored by a range of incredible certified organic brands and retailers. Simply look for the Awareness Month logo instore and online. If you’d like to get involved, contact Australian Organic to receive your very own AOAM supporter kit. To learn more, visit:

Selection of certified organic products from Australian Organic Awareness Month. IMAGE: Anna Kucera

Fall Armyworm on the march By Eilis Walker, Industry Development Officer, Bowen Gumlu Growers Association

Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) was first detected in Far North Queensland in January 2020 with detections in the Bowen and Burdekin regions soon after. Fall Armyworm poses a significant threat to agriculture in the Bowen-Gumlu and Burdekin region, and has caused significant crop losses in commodities such as sorghum, cotton, maize and also sweet corn – a crop that is grown extensively throughout the region. Of greatest concern is the pest’s resistance to chemical control methods, making eradication of it near unachievable. The pest can also rapidly move across regions with evidence suggesting that it can move up to 500 km in its lifetime with prevailing winds. Moving forward, eradication is highly unlikely with Australian biosecurity organisations determining it to be unfeasible. However, there are practices that can be easily implemented by all stakeholders across the value chain that will reduce the likelihood of an incursion


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occurring. These practices include: washing down vehicles before entering a property, implementing basic field hygiene practices such as terminating crops correctly as well as implementing crop monitoring.

COVID-19. While many shy away from the crisis, growers have revealed their true character of being strong, resilient and community-minded individuals that remain focused on producing high quality produce to keep everyone fed and healthy.

Bowen Gumlu Growers Association continues to work with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), state and territory governments, industry groups and other communities for the continued management of the pest. Growers are reminded to remain alert but not alarmed and to continually monitor their crops as the season progresses. DAF is also encouraging growers to report any unexpected symptoms in the field by phone on 13 25 23.

I have been blown away by how many growers in the region have given their time to sit on committee after committee or provide feedback in regards to new directives. The commitment made from these individuals has been enormous and reflects the dedication of growers to ensure that agricultural production remains a key priority.

On a personal note In times of crisis people often reveal their true character, whether that be good or not so good. 2020 has already presented many challenges to the agricultural community including the continuing challenges of

There has also been an overwhelming response from government sectors, such as Queensland Police Service, Queensland Health and DAF, all of whom work tirelessly to ensure that growers remain informed and aware. Moving forward, these challenges will remain indefinitely, however, what is definite is that the region will continue to be strong and resilient in the face of adversity.

No rest for Paradise advocate By Bree Grima, Managing Director, Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers

Paradise Dam advocacy continues to take precedence in the Bundaberg region with decisions by the state government to lower the dam wall expected to have a severe impact on local producers. As the industry was not prepared to sit back and await the outcomes, irrigators in the region commissioned an economic impact study in addition to reports by internationally-renowned dam safety experts. Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers (BFVG) tabled these reports to the Commission of Inquiry to Paradise Dam and the report author Dr Paul Rizzo appeared as an expert witness before the Commissioners. We continue to call on state government to provide a solid guarantee to irrigators that comprehensive testing will take place

prior to the reduction of the spillway and that Paradise Dam will be returned to full supply level. The economic impact report estimates the cost of inaction on Paradise Dam would be approximately $2.4 billion over the next 30 years. Investors have made decisions based on the availability of water and, with macadamia crops alone anticipated to triple over the next ten years, Paradise Dam needs to retain the full volume of water it was designed for and provide water security for the region’s irrigators. Individual growers in the region are also pursing their legal options through agribusiness law firm Marland Law who filed for an injunction through the Brisbane Supreme Court to stop the lowering of Paradise Dam. BFVG are

The Paradise Dam spillway is set to be reduced by five metres.

not a party to the legal action but fully understand why growers have taken this action and we share their concerns.

Bananas celebrate national day COVID-19 may have put a dent on public events but it didn’t stop growers celebrating the banana industry’s national day on 1 May. Growers, together with the national peak industry body Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC), and Hort Innovation, which delivers the levy-funded Australian Bananas marketing program, took to social media to celebrate National Banana Day. Australian Bananas kicked off celebrations with a Banana Bread Bake Off. More than 100 entries were received across Facebook and Instagram resulting in a combined reach of more than two million consumers.

reported that National Banana Day generated more than 115 pieces of coverage across broadcast, radio and online news, with a combined reach of more than 15 million. The social media activity on the day also featured celebrity guests including retired NRL player and former Innisfail resident Billy Slater – also an Australian Bananas ambassador - and fitness and health guru Sam Wood, who both delivered banana-themed workouts to thousands of people on their social media channels. Another highlight of the day was a delivery of bananas to frontline health workers at hospitals in Brisbane and Sydney.

A ‘sticky date banana bread’ creation from University of Sydney student Scarlett Cheesman was crowned the champion, with leading Australian dietician and Australian Bananas ambassador Susie Burrell lauding its “unbelievably golden and delicious appearance”. On 1 May, banana growers took over the social media channels of ABGC and Australian Bananas, sharing special messages from their plantations and packing sheds. Tagged #nationalbananaday2020, the posts on the ABGC Facebook page reached 23,000 people, generated 4,308 post clicks and triggered 1809 reactions, comments and shares. The overwhelming response reinforced the growing trend that consumers, particularly those in metropolitan areas, want to know and connect with food producers in rural and regional Australia. Australian Bananas ran a campaign to celebrate #nationalbananaday2020 through mainstream and social media. Hort Innovation Marketing Manager, Tate Connolly,

Golden thank you: ABGC CEO Jim Pekin (left) delivers a box of bananas for frontline health workers to Greenslopes Private Hospital CEO Chris Went.

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Health crisis continues for exporters and importers By Andréa Magiafoglou, CEO, Australian Horticultural Exporters’ and Importers’ Association

It is with caution we await the second quarter trade data for horticulture exports where the true impact of COVID-19 on Australia’s horticultural exports is likely to manifest.

Airfreight impacts Since the COVID-19 crisis commenced, Australian airfreight capacity was down as much as 91% on pre-COVID levels. Additional commercial flights have since recommenced and extra support via the International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) has seen this figure move to 68% down from pre-COVID levels. Increased capacity is anticipated once international borders reopen for passenger movement. As of late May, IFAM has facilitated the export of over 25,000 tonnes of agricultural and seafood products via 1,000 flights to 28 international destinations. The government funding initiative to support agricultural exports has been widely welcomed, however, despite the volume of cargo horticulture exporters have reported limited uptake. As of late May, fresh fruit and vegetables represent approximately 10% of total cargo sent through IFAM. Due to the nature of fresh produce supplies, a challenge for exporters has been booking and meeting capacity requirements at a cost that remains competitive in the global marketplace. At current expenditure, the original $110 million assistance provided by the federal government is expected to be 36 FRESH SOURCE

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fully expended by the week of 12 July 2020. With reduced airfreight capacity likely to continue for some time yet, focus is now on a Cabinet submission made by the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, and Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, The Hon David Littleproud MP, to extend IFAM beyond the current funding period. It is clear that horticulture has a strong need for ongoing support for fresh produce exports that are airfreight-reliant, particularly moving into the second half of 2020 and early 2021. The International Freight Coordinator General of IFAM, Michael Byrne, reported that the challenges for exporters of fresh fruits and vegetables, in particular the price sensitivity that impacts on greater uptake of IFAM for horticulture producers, has been taken into consideration in this Cabinet submission.

Supply chain impacts Beyond airfreight, the impacts of COVID-19 have resulted in a slowdown in supply chains in general. Similar to what we have seen in Australia, demand from food services has been affected internationally, with reduced pricing reported in some markets. Sea freight has not been immune either, with shipping affected by congestion surcharges, reduced reefer availability and delayed clearance times. Depending on how each government responds to COVID-19, the impact varies across

markets and requires Australian horticultural exporters to be flexible and adaptive in response.

Fees shelved Alleviating some of the challenges in the current COVID-19 environment is the welcome news that increases to export certification fees and charges proposed by Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) have been shelved. Previously DAWE had indicated an implementation date of 1 July 2020. These substantial increases were strongly opposed by industry and resulted in a united crosshorticulture submission by key industry representative bodies and members of the Department’s Horticulture Export Industry Consultative Committee.

Legislation updates Further on export processes, DAWE is in the process of updating and modernising the legislative framework to consolidate and streamline existing export legislation. Several changes have been proposed for the Draft Plant and Plant Product Rules, which will support the Export Control Act 2020, including extra functions associated with Export Permits to cover activities between export and acceptance of a consignment by the importing country. A second round of consultation will occur later in 2020 and the new legislation is expected to commence on 28 March 2021.

Exports increase to $299M in 2019, but crisis leads to an uncertain 2020 Strong demand for locally-grown vegetables in key export markets, along with increased investment into export capabilities, saw the total fresh vegetable exports increased 6.6% in value to $299 million in 2019. However, the latest data for the first quarter of 2020 shows an 8.7% decrease in dollar value and a 12% decrease in tonnage, when compared with the corresponding period in 2019. The COVID-19 health crisis presented exporting growers with a number of challenges in the first quarter of 2020, including market closures, supply chain disruptions and air and sea freight services being ceased or heavily reduced, according to AUSVEG National Manager – Export Development, Michael Coote. “According to the latest data from Global Trade Atlas, the total value of vegetable exports for the period from January to March 2020 was $59.5 million and the total vegetable export volume dropped to 58,276 tonnes,” Mr Coote said. “Looking to the primary vegetable export markets, trade to Singapore was up by $983,798 to $11,207,437, an increase of 10% in value. However, it was down 48 tonnes to 6,462 total tonnes for the period – a decrease of 1%. “Trade to the United Arab Emirates saw a decline of 3% in value and volume. Saudi Arabia rose 10% in value and 17% in volume. Trade to Hong Kong was lower than the previous year, down 14% by value and down 7% by volume. The most significantly impacted market was Japan, down 70% in value and 78% in volume.” Demand for celery, brassicas and pumpkins remained strong in export markets, however, exports of carrots, potatoes, onions and leafy salads were down considerably on the same period in 2019 (see table).

Carrots lead the way in 2019 exports In 2019, carrots remained the largest export product at 34% of the total exported volume. Onions led much of the export growth in 2019, with the value of exported onions increasing

Carrots were the winners of Australian vegetable exports, accounting for 34% of the total exported volume.

by 67% to AUD$40 million in 2019. Tasmanian growers contributed most of the national growth in onion exports, increasing exports from the state by 91%, particularly to European markets. Western Australian and South Australian growers also increased onion exports 67% and 47% respectively. The volume of Australian fresh vegetable exports has also seen continued growth in the face of challenging trading and production conditions. The total volume of Australian fresh vegetable exports increased 5.4% to 230,000 tonnes in 2019. The top five markets for Australian fresh vegetables remained largely stable for 2019. These are Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, which has replaced Hong Kong for fifth position. These five markets received around 53% of Australian fresh vegetable export volumes. Mr Coote said the progress the Australian vegetable industry has made in growing its exports is testament to the hard work of vegetable growers to persevere with the export process, and the work done by AUSVEG, Hort Innovation and the wider industry in providing opportunities for growers to increase their capability and opportunities to enter export markets. “The Australian vegetable industry is continuing to see growth in its exports, particularly on the back of strong performing products, such as onions, to European markets” said Mr Coote.

Vegetable exports January to March 2019 and 2020 Product

2019 Jan-March $ AUD Tonnes

2020 Jan-March $ AUD Tonnes

^2019/2020 $ AUD Tonnes



















































Winter 2020 FRESH SOURCE 37


Local persimmons impress Thai market The first trial shipment of Queensland persimmons to Thailand is being hailed a success with the fruit selling out shortly after arrival. The trial shipment was exported to Thailand under a new protocol negotiated by the federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. It was also the first shipment of any fresh produce from Australia to Thailand using chemical and heat-free phytosanitary irradiation. Queensland persimmon grower, Ross Stuhmcke, said the trial was an exciting opportunity for the persimmon industry and all horticulture industries. “What has been impressive with this trial is the real partnership between industry, government, the grower and the importer. All have played an important role in its success,” Mr Stuhmcke said. Federal Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, said the shipment showed the commitment to expanding market access for Australian agricultural products.

“The shipment marks a major milestone for Australian farmers made possible through ongoing collaboration over close to seven years of negotiations,” Minister Littleproud said. Thailand imports around $23 million worth of persimmons each year – including from Japan and New Zealand. Persimmons are fat free, naturally high in fibre and a good source of vitamin C, which appeals to increasingly healthconscious Thai consumers. Feedback from buyers and consumers will be used to assist with marketing next year’s harvest. “Reports are that the fruit sold out shortly after going on sale, with consumers giving positive feedback on the fresh, nutritious and delicious Australian produce,” Minister Littleproud said. Current only Queensland persimmons have access to Thailand, but President of Persimmons Australia, Chris Stillard, hopes that the success of this shipment will lead to the protocol being extended to other states as well as other categories of Australian horticulture.

Free flowing trade opened with Indonesia The Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) came into force on 5 July, opening the way for exporters to benefit from lower tariffs and improved access to Indonesian markets. Federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said that securing the trade agreement with Indonesia was a long-standing objective of the Morrison Government. “This is the most comprehensive bilateral trade agreement Indonesia has ever signed, and will give a competitive edge to Australian exporters. With a population of over 260 million and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Indonesia presents significant trade and investment opportunities for Australian farmers and businesses,” Mr Birmingham said. AUSVEG National Manager – Export Development, Michael Coote, welcomed the agreement, saying it would help Australian vegetable exporters trade into this growing market.


Winter 2020

Queensland persimmon grower, Ross Stuhmcke prepares a consignment of his delicious fruit for a trial shipment bound for Thailand.

“This is a positive example of state and federal governments working together in a cohesive manner to ensure the requirements of the protocol have been met at the farm right through to the importer in Thailand,” Mr Stillard said. “It has not been an easy task to achieve this first shipment, there are a lot of steps in the chain from the farm to the market. However, now that we have proven this pathway and with hopefully better weather conditions next year, we are looking forward to doing an extended trial in 2021.”

“The agreement to increase import quotas and decrease tariffs for carrot and potato exports – two of the Australian vegetable industry’s key export crops – should lead to an immediate increase of over $15 million in annual trade, an increase of over 300% in current trade values of fresh vegetables to Indonesia,” Mr Coote said. “The IA-CEPA is an important trade agreement that aligns closely with our industry’s increased activities in market development, which includes Indonesia’s continued participation in the AUSVEG Reverse Trade Mission that allows buyers from key export markets to visit Australian vegetable growers and see first-hand the high-quality produce for which our growers are renowned around the world. “Given Indonesia is predicted to have the world’s fifth largest economy by 2030, the IA-CEPA will help ensure that Australia’s vegetable growers will benefit from the country’s expected economic growth.” In the 2018/19 financial year, Australian vegetable exports to Indonesia were valued at $5 million, with the top commodity being potatoes, which accounts for over 40% of the total. Given Indonesia’s developing population and its proximity to Australia, this market has strong potential for local growers to boost their fresh vegetable exports.

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