New data arms growers with shopping insights

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Horticulture

HORT INNOVATION has worked with global information and measurement company, Nielsen, to bring growers the largest series of insights into market performance and shopping behaviour yet. Focussing specifically on the vegetable, sweet potato and onion levy-paying industries, the regularly updated data bank, Harvest to Home, contains hundreds of valuable data points conveyed in a user-friendly format. Hort Innovation chief executive, John Lloyd, said Harvest to Home was created after industries identified they needed deeper insights into trends in consumer preferences. “Never before has there been this level of buying information been available to vegetable, sweet potato and onion growers,” he said. “Using the Harvest to Home website, growers can quickly identify how well commodities are selling in each State, how often consumers are buying, and how much they are spending on each occasion. “They will also be able to determine who is buying their products, whether they are young people, couples, elderly people or families. “On top of this, levy-paying growers will have access to longitudinal data so they can view historical trends, covering up to two years. “We are also very excited to offer case studies produced by Nielsen that will pull together key industry insights and convey simple …

Queen-bee-scented balloons help identify local species

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Horticulture

A NET FILLED with pheromone-soaked ‘dummy queens’ attached to a helium-filled weather balloon is the latest tool being used by pollination researchers in their efforts to better understand the number of honey bee colonies in an area. Recently employed on the New South Wales north coast, and being conducted around Australia, the research aims to give growers an insight into where their bees are coming from — feral colonies or through managed hives — and how effective those sources are. The work is being conducted as part of the four-year project Assessing honey bee colony densities at landscape scales, supported by AgriFutures Australia, though funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit programme, as well as Hort Innovation. The project is being led by the University of Sydney, with further support from Almond Board of Australia, Lucerne Australia, Costa Berries, and Raspberries and Blackberries Australia. University of Sydney researcher, Dr Michael Holmes, said the work aims to determine how many bees are in an area of up to a 1km radius, helping growers identify whether there are enough bees to pollinate a crop adequately. “Large-scale farms often bring in paid …

Vegetable industry cash income rates highest in a decade

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Horticulture

INCREASED PRODUCTION levels per farm and higher market prices for produce led to improved income levels for vegetable growers in 2015-16, according to ABARES’ latest vegetable industry survey. Acting Assistant Secretary of ABARES’ Agricultural Productivity and Farm Analysis branch, David Galeano, said the average farm cash income in the vegetable growing industry is estimated to have increased to around $254,000 per farm. “In 2016-17, average farm income of Australian vegetable-growing farms is projected to be the highest in real terms since ABARES began surveying vegetable-growing farms in 2007,” Mr Galeano said. “Average farm cash income is projected to increase in all states, except Victoria and Tasmania. “The total value of capital for Australian vegetable-growing farms decreased by 15 per cent in real terms from 2006-07 to 2015-16, due to a reduction in the number of Australian vegetable-growing farms, despite the average size of vegetable growing farms increasing. “Nevertheless, Australian vegetable growers made an average of $271 million in new capital investment each year and average total capital per farm increased by 35 per cent to around $4.5 million per farm. “Average farm debt of Australian vegetable-growing farms is projected to have increased by around 15 per cent in 2015-16, but …

Hort Plasma

Food safety supercharger a technological first

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Horticulture

THE MOTHER of all produce sanitisation machines has arrived in Australia, fresh off the ship from Germany, as Australia takes its food safety technology to the next level. Dubbed The Food Safety Supercharger, the custom-made 250kg test unit creates a stream of ‘supercharged air’ by applying an electric current to normal air. Using this disruptive technology, it has the capacity to kill microbial pathogens on the surface of fresh produce and nuts, without leaving any chemical residues. Housed at a New South Wales Department of Primary Industries laboratory, this world-first machine aims to eliminate microbial contaminants such as Salmonella, Listeria and E.coli which cause foodborne illness outbreaks. Other spoilage-causing moulds can also be suppressed, offering a longer shelf life and reduced food waste. Hort Innovation fund manager, Tim Archibald, said the technology — which is part of a $5 million jointly-funded project with the NSW Department of Primary Industries — has never been commercially used on food. “The Food Safety Supercharger is here, and Australia is on track to introduce some of the most sophisticated sanitation technology in the world,” Mr Archibald said. “While there are good post-harvest practices already in place in Australia, when isolated contamination incidents occur, farmers …

Advanced innovation for $9 billion horticulture industry

Colin Jackson Horticulture

AUSTRALIA’S horticulture sector has taken a huge step forward in innovation with the opening today of the nation’s first state-of-the-art vegetable glasshouse-production research centre at the Western Sydney University. Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston, today officially opened the $7 million facility, which will research tailored solutions to Australia’s protected cropping needs and also train the next generation of horticulturists. “Protected cropping has long been seen as a potential game changer for Australia, through its efficiency and ability to effectively manage risk, including biosecurity risks,” Minister Ruston said. “It offers protection from climate and severe weather, optimal growing conditions, increases in yields and reductions in water, fertiliser, pesticide, fungicide and herbicide use. “While Australia has made several advancements in protected cropping, other countries have been setting the pace. “This centre is our chance to make real gains in this area and develop systems tailored to local conditions, stay up-to-date with the latest technology, maximise returns for growers and train the next generation of horticulturists. “I am excited the Australian Government was able to contribute to the centre through Hort Innovation, which included $1.3 million for its establishment, $3 million for running the centre and for further …

New high-folate strawberry a sweet find

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Horticulture

SCIENTISTS have discovered an ‘alpha strawberry’ that is very sweet in flavour and has folate levels that may be up to three times higher than standard strawberries. Folate is an important B-group vitamin that is critical for a range of biological functions in adults and children, including the production of DNA and other genetic material. It is also essential for the healthy development of the foetus in early pregnancy and can help to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. The strawberry research is funded as part of a $10M Hort Innovation program aimed at developing naturally nutrient-dense food, and delivered and co-funded by the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), University of Queensland which is supported by the Queensland Government. Hort Innovation chief executive, John Lloyd, said while the strawberry is yet to undergo taste testing through consumer panels to see if it is as good as conventional breeds, the finding is exciting. “This is essentially an ‘alpha strawberry’; it contains way more folate than we would expect to see in a standard strawberry,” he said. Mr Lloyd said the variety was developed to help growers meet consumer demand. “Consumers are becoming more health conscious and are looking for …

Joe Moro Mareeba innovators
The Charlie Nastasi Horticultural Farmer of the Year Award panel comprises (from left) Joe Moro, Gerard Kath, Thomas Mugford and Wayne McKeich.

Mareeba farming innovators up for major award

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Horticulture

FOUR trail-blazing farmers from the Mareeba area have been nominated in this year’s Charlie Nastasi Horticultural Farmer of the Year Award. Held annually by the Mareeba District Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (MDFVGA), the award aims to continue the legacy of the late Charlie Nastasi by recognising outstanding innovation and exceptional leadership in the horticultural industry across the Atherton Tablelands and Lakeland area. Matthew Perkes, Elio Quintieri, Sam Collins and Jose Caamano have all been nominated for this year’s Award, each bringing their own unique innovation and leadership to the industry. A former carpenter, Mr Perkes grows limes and avocados on a 70ha property at Mareeba. He utilises full tissue, soil and moisture testing to produce a superb crop every year, helped by an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program and water-saving mulch practices. Mr Perkes also volunteers his time as junior president of the Mareeba United Football Club. Mr Quintieri, a lychee farmer at Paddys Green, manufacturers his own proprietary cherry pickers built on site at his property which have proven to be extremely popular amongst growers. Sky’s the limit for Tableland lychee grower From a well-known and respected farming family, Mr Quintieri has a long involvement in farming, manufacturing …

Atherton Tableland farmer, Elio Quinteri, flying high with his cherry picker business, is one of four nominees in this year’s Charlie Nastasi Horticultural Farmer of the Year Award.
Atherton Tableland farmer, Elio Quinteri, flying high with his cherry picker business, is one of four nominees in this year’s Charlie Nastasi Horticultural Farmer of the Year Award.

Sky’s the limit for Tableland lychee grower

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Horticulture

AN ATHERTON TABLELAND lychee farmer has taken a passion for machinery to the next level as demand surges nationwide for his cherry pickers. Elio Quinteri, from Paddys Green just outside Mareeba, is finding success in building Australian Afron Elevating Work Platforms since taking over the business five years ago. Mr Quinteri is one of four nominees in this year’s Charlie Nastasi Horticultural Farmer of the Year Award, which aims to continue the legacy of the late Mr Nastasi by recognising outstanding innovation and exceptional leadership in the horticultural industry across the Atherton Tablelands and Lakeland area. Matthew Perkes, Sam Collins and Jose Caamano are the other nominees in this year’s Charlie Nastasi Award , with the winner being announced at the annual Mareeba District Fruit and Vegetable Industry dinner this Friday evening. Having previously been an agricultural machinery salesman and dealer, Mr Quinteri said running his own manufacturing business seemed the next logical step in his career. “I’m passionate about what I do and I’m very particular. I’ve been a farmer, salesman, dealer and now I’m a manufacturer. I’ve seen it from all perspectives so I know what the customers want,” he said. Mr Quinteri, who heads up Quinto Ag …

High-tech biosecurity hub to protect the north

Colin Jackson Current News, Dairy, Enviro-Safe, Farm-Safe, Horticulture, Livestock, Sugar

A NEW biosecurity hub to guard against foreign pests and diseases will be built in Darwin as part of an $8 million joint project by the Australian and Northern Territory Governments. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the Australian Government was delivering $3.5 million to create a cutting-edge biosecurity hub at the NT Government’s Berrimah Farm facility in Darwin, plus $500,000 to fight bluetongue virus. “The new biosecurity hub will be more than ten times the size of the current facility, and will house the latest technology in molecular diagnostics, a technique to diagnose and monitor disease and detect risk,” Minister Joyce. “This significant investment in biosecurity in the north, under the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, will support faster testing of potential biosecurity threats as they emerge. This includes quickly separating local, sometimes beneficial, insects from exotic fruit flies that could devastate our horticulture exports. “It also means a more effective early warning system for destructive threats, such as new banana diseases. And it means expert rapid diagnosis of exotic diseases that could cripple Australian agriculture.” Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industry and Resources, Ken Vowles, said the improvements made possible through this joint investment, …


Queensland irrigators welcome water efficiency funding

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Dairy, Horticulture, Livestock, Produce

QUEENSLAND’S irrigated agriculture industries will benefit from continued productivity improvements and responsible management of water thanks to the State Government investing another $2 million in a critically important program. The 2017-18 Rural Water Use Efficiency Initiative (RWUEI) will provide grants and assistance for farmers across a number of industries to help with keeping water on-farm and also meeting natural resource management outcomes. Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) President, Stuart Armitage, welcomed the continuation of funding for RWUEI, but expressed the sector’s concern over funding uncertainty post 2017-18 with farmers being subject to increasing water-use challenges from climate change. “Queensland irrigators have been subject to and continue to implement wide-scale reform to water use that has seen structural adjustments in the irrigation sector. This has included significant capital investments by farmers and the adoption of water saving infrastructure and practices, and the importance of metering,” said Mr. Armitage. “Farmers understand the simple economic benefits that come from minimising costs, increasing efficiencies and improving productivity. “Governments must accept and acknowledge the role of irrigated agriculture in supplying food, fibre, foliage and increasingly fuel; and the income it generates, particularly in regional communities post 2017-18. “For an efficient and viable agricultural sector in Queensland …

Mackays Bananas_6763

Banana industry weighs-in on nation’s health

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Horticulture, Produce

THE NATION’S banana growers will soon be ‘a-peeling’ to Aussie families around a sizeable issue, as the industry gears up to launch one of its boldest marketing campaigns yet. Set to kick off on Fathers’ Day this Sunday, the inaugural Weight Check 2017 initiative aims to get dads, and all Australians, to better understand their current weight and take action towards living a healthier life by utilising a handy online tool. By stepping on the scales and registering their weight at, participants will be able to find out how they measure on the Body Mass Index scale and learn their projected weight creep into the future if they do not manage their weight. In preparation for the massive campaign, growers from Carnarvon in Western Australia and Coffs Harbour in New South Wales have sent the industry’s promotional ‘Benny Banana’ costumes to Sydney to appear at select train stations, on national television, social media and other locations. Hort Innovation chief executive John Lloyd said the banana industry identified Weight Check 2017 as an ideal marketing investment opportunity. “Bananas are the non-stop energy snack, so it made sense for us to partner with SP Health to deliver this creative campaign to help …

Cyclone Debbie support leaves farmers waiting

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Horticulture

NEARLY FIVE MONTHS after Cyclone Debbie crossed the north Queensland coast, farmers are still waiting for the much needed Category D assistance as governments continue to wade through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) processes and negotiations. Last month it was announced that a $58.61 million NDRRA Category D exceptional circumstances package had been approved, jointly funded on a 50/50 basis by the Commonwealth and State Governments. The package includes a $2.1 million economic package to assist agriculture. Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) President Stuart Armitage (pictured) expressed his frustration with the time it was taking to see the economic package reach affected farmers. “Administratively, the recovery process has been very slow. It’s been five months since Cyclone Debbie hit, four months since the Queensland Government applied for a Category D exceptional circumstances package, and over a month since that package was announced,” said Mr Armitage. “Unfortunately, the shortcomings within the current disaster recovery system are not new and past learnings have not been heeded. Following the Cyclone Marcia Agricultural Recovery project, QFF again highlighted concerns with the timeliness of administrative processes and pointed out that they were detrimental to the effectiveness of on-ground recovery. “Proper process is important when …

SQ Regional Plan leaves agriculture wanting

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Horticulture

THE RECENTLY-RELEASED South-East Queensland Regional Plan (Shaping SEQ) has failed to properly address agricultural producers’ concerns around longevity and prosperity with the ongoing issues presented by urban encroachment on the region’s rural industries. Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) President, Stuart Armitage (pictured), said while it was encouraging that Shaping SEQ only made limited changes to the existing urban footprint, it still fell short in delivering the certainty the sector has long sought, and a coherent strategy for agriculture and the rural areas was still missing. “Shaping SEQ has a very clear agenda in catering for population and other industry growth. Unfortunately, this has come at the expense of a clear and cohesive plan that incorporates and considers the importance of some of the state’s intensive agriculture operating in the peri-urban areas,” said Mr Armitage. “Agricultural production in SEQ is dominated by commodities that either supply fresh to urban markets or rely on processing and packaging for local and export markets. These peri-urban agricultural industries deliver a holistic community and economic value that is devalued and sometimes unsustainable once forced outside their existing local proximity. “Population growth should not and does not need to come at the expense of agricultural businesses operating in SEQ. A simplified …

Workers from some of the poorest nations in the Pacific go to work in an apple orchard in New Zealand. Their smiles tell the story of their employment. Workers have a right to be treated and paid properly.

Exploitation of seasonal workers completely unacceptable

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Horticulture

PEAK HORTICULTURE organisation, Growcom, is deeply disappointed by reports that rogue operators have exploited farm workers under the Seasonal Worker Programme. The reports point to a small number of rogue labour hire companies (LHC) failing to meet their obligations within the Programme to properly treat and pay workers. These reports raise serious red flags about whether the government’s enforcement agencies are sufficiently resourced to monitor and police the programme — and able to bring wrong doers to justice within a reasonable timeframe. Chief Advocate Rachel Mackenzie said Growcom has been a strong supporter of the Seasonal Worker Programme because it is designed to deliver a win-win for farmers and for seasonal workers from Pacific nations. “This Seasonal Worker Programme when operating correctly delivers a reliable harvest labour for Australian growers and economic opportunities for people from developing nations in the Pacific. “As Queensland’s peak grower group, Growcom wants to make it clear there is no place in the Australian horticulture industry for anyone who seeks to willfully exploit workers or contravene the good intentions and economic outcomes designed to flow from the Seasonal Worker Programme. “The Seasonal Worker Programme has been highly successful, with many workers returning year after year to …

Stellar biosecurity helping Australia progress and prosper

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Horticulture

BIOSECURITY officers in Sydney recently intercepted packets of galactic tomato seeds imported from Italy, which had previously been on a six-year jaunt through space and returned to Earth in the Columbus space shuttle in 1990. Head of Biosecurity Operations, Nico Padovan, said the NASA space seeds were an interesting and unusual find that potentially posed a biosecurity risk, as they could carry unknown plant pests or diseases from Italy — or even outer space. “All seeds or plant material imported to Australia must meet our biosecurity conditions regardless of the country — or galaxy — they’ve arrived from,” Mr Padovan said. “These seeds were launched into space on April 6, 1984, aboard NASA’s Long Duration Exposure Facility on Space Shuttle Challenger and returned to Earth on January 20, 1990, on Space Shuttle Columbia. “They were part of an outer space seed experiment to see if the weightlessness and long exposure to radiation in space affects the seeds’ growth. “The well-travelled seeds recently arrived in Australia undeclared and our colleagues at Australian Border Force referred them to our biosecurity officers. “These particular seeds posed a relatively low risk, as they did not encounter alien life forms when in orbit and the …

Fair Go in the NT features free workshops and farm visits

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Horticulture

HELPING GROWERS ensure workers are treated fairly on fruit and vegetable farms will be the focus at a series of free workshops and farm visits in the Top End. Peak horticulture representation body Growcom will host Getting Fair Work Compliant on Farm workshops from 11am to 3pm in Katherine on August 15 and Darwin on August 17 as part of the national Fair Farms Initiative. The workshops, to be delivered by Growcom’s Annabel Hutch and horticulture workplace relations specialist, Donna Mogg, will give growers the opportunity to ‘stress test’ their employment practices against the requirements of the Fair Work Act. Growcom will also arrange farm visits to work through its Hort360 Workplace Relations module — a step towards gaining Freshcare certification for Fair Employment — with interested growers. This new certification is being developed through the Fair Farms Initiative and will be available to industry members by mid-2018. Growcom Chief Advocate, Rachel Mackenzie, urged growers to participate in the workshops, which will be done in conjunction with the NT Farmers Association and the Australian Mango Industry Association. “This is an opportunity for growers to get ideas for managing tricky issues like poor performance, inappropriate conduct, disputes, or termination of employment,” she said. …

Rights and obligations of Hort Code explained

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Horticulture

GROWERS are being urged to learn their rights and obligations under the new Horticulture Code of Conduct through a series of free workshops across Queensland in August being hosted by Growcom. The new Code, introduced on April 1, 2017, has been designed to protect growers’ interests while reflecting the business flexibilities and realities needed to operate in the market place. Growcom, with support from Queensland’s regional horticulture organisations, will run the workshops through sponsorship from HiveXchange and with support from the VegNET program. A representative from the ACCC will give an overview of the Code and take questions. There will also be a presentation from national online marketplace HiveXchange entitled, Managing your compliance — an online consignment tool making Code Compliance easy. Horticulture produce agreements (HPAs) developed by Growcom will also be distributed and discussed at the workshops. While the ACCC will continue working with industry associations like Growcom to educate growers and traders, the next stage of its work will take the form of compliance checks. Growcom Chief Advocate, Rachel Mackenzie, said the workshops would provide valuable information to growers. “The Code workshops will help you understand types of trading arrangements and additional protections under the new Code. They …

Triple temptations for horticulture trade future

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Horticulture

AUSTRALIA’S horticulture industry is embarking on the biggest trade drive in its history, with a plan to significantly grow exports by 2025 across a range of commodities. Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Anne Ruston this week launched the trade push, co-ordinated by Hort Innovation, complete with the new ‘Taste Australia’ brand, increased trade shows and funding for research and development and getting farmers ready to export. “Our horticulture industry today made a bold statement about its intent to seize the opportunities global food demand presents,” the Minister said. “Global food demand alone will require a 75 per cent increase in world food production by 2050, compared with 2007 levels. “In China, food consumption is projected to more than double between 2009 and 2050. Much of this demand will be for the high-value, high-quality produce Australia is known for. “Taste Australia is a new brand and export campaign to promote premium Australian produce overseas. “This brand promotes our longstanding reputation for quality produce, the cleanliness of our environment, the desirability of our lifestyle, and the trust that can be placed in our commercial supply chains and biosecurity. “Hort Innovation will invest in more trade shows and growers and industry …

Helping Aussie farmers access safe and effective agvet chemicals

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Enviro-Safe, Horticulture

GRANTS up to $1.78 million are now available to improve farmers’ access to safe and effective agvet chemicals, and are available to rural research and development corporations as part of the Coalition Government’s four-year $8 million investment. The Federal Government HAS announced a third round to improve access to safe and effective agricultural and veterinary (agvet) chemicals, part of a four-year $8 million investment. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the grants programme, opening on August 1, 2017, to research and development corporations, will help Australian farmers access new products and expand uses for existing chemicals. Applicants may seek up to $100 000 per grant for projects aimed at including a new use on the label of a chemical product, and up to $50,000 per grant for projects aimed at broadening or gaining new access to a use through an Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) minor use permit. “Australia is a relatively small market, which can sometimes mean that the cost involved in registering an agvet chemical can sometimes make the venture uncommercial,” Barnaby Joyce said. “This grant funding will make Australian producers more competitive by improving their ability to access …

Improved Sweet Potato Genome delivered to S/E Asia scientists

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Horticulture

Ness Ziona, Israel: July 26, 2017 NRGene, the worldwide leader in genomic assembly and analysis, has delivered a significantly improved assembly of the sweet potato genome to a group of scientists from Japan, China, and Korea. The genome sequencing was performed as part of a project sponsored by the Trilateral Research Association of Sweet Potato (TRAS). The consortium consists of the Institute of Sweet Potato Research at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China Agricultural University, the Rural Development Administration of Korea, Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology and Japan’s National Agriculture and Food Research Organization and Kazusa DNA Research Institute. “The sweet potato is an essential crop for the world’s communities, especially in Asia and Africa, providing high vitamin, mineral and calorie content,” says Professor Qingchang Liu, president of the consortium from China Agricultural University. “Therefore we launched an international genome sequencing project for the sweet potato.” The assembly of the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) genome took less than two months using Illumina technology and NRGene’s DeNovoMAGICTM 3.0, which leverages the power of big data to analyze Illumina reads quickly and efficiently, delivering complete genomes at the highest level of accuracy. The sweet potato is a heterozygote, hexaploid …


Banana industry rolls-on despite Panama being identified

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Enviro-Safe, Horticulture

FOLLOW-UP sample tests have confirmed the presence of Panama TR4 on a commercial banana farm in the Tully Valley. Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne, who was in Melbourne for the Agriculture Minister’s Forum AGMIN, said he had been advised that a vegetative compatibility group test provided a final and conclusive result. “The Palaszczuk Government understands the impact this positive result for Panama disease tropical race four will have on the producer involved, the industry and more broadly the community whose lives are intrinsically connected to the industry.” he said. “Biosecurity Queensland will ensure that the affected business can continue to operate as seamlessly as possible while we minimise the risk to the rest of the industry.” The Minister said the property owners were co-operating fully with the department. “The owners had already established high standards of biosecurity on their farm, and have shown a professional and proactive approach to management of the disease. “The effectiveness of the biosecurity measures implemented to date is supported by the knowledge that the latest detection is in close proximity to the first infected property, and not in a new production area,” he said. “Thanks to the hard work of government and industry, we have had over …

LNP commits to form Agriculture Energy and Water Council — welcomed by industry

Colin Jackson Current News, Horticulture, Sugar

THE LIBERAL NATIONAL Party (LNP) has announced that it is re-establishing an Agriculture Energy and Water Council to improve collaboration between industry, government and government-owned corporations (GOCs) in considering energy-related issues that impact agriculture. The Council will consist of representatives from the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF), QFF industry member CANEGROWERS, AgForce and relevant LNP shadow ministers; and Energy Queensland if the LNP is elected. QFF President Stuart Armitage (pictured) welcomed the LNP’s announcement and commended it for willingness to work alongside industry to address unsustainable and unjustifiable electricity prices. “QFF and industry members have been very vocal on the need for government to address spiraling electricity prices and have been providing considered options that could improve the situation.” “We have also been strongly advocating for the need to properly consider the synergy to water efficiency – the energy/water nexus. This forum has the potential to address both these issues.” “It is a good initiative and we look forward to being involved, but the Council must deliver real outcomes in the form of lower electricity costs for all regional businesses. The worst outcome would be for this to become yet another talkfest that provides no relief for Queensland farmers.” The purpose of …


Colour your week of Ekka with agricultural naturals

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Coming Events, Cotton, Dairy, Horticulture, Livestock, Sugar

QUEENSLAND-GROWN wool and cotton, highlighted with leather, bamboo and silk, will be the agricultural centrepiece of the Natural Fibre Fashion Parade carrying the theme ‘Back to Nature’ as part of the 140th Royal Brisbane Show from August 11 to 20. Directed by Laura Churchill, the runway will feature 27 established, emerging and regional designers for one fabulous display of style. And in the newly-named Agricultural Education Hall, there will be more educational activities for children than ever before, including the new Field to Fork interactive rural journey where kids will discover how their food gets from the field to their fork. In order of the agricultural cycle — composting, soil analysis, growing and planting, harvesting and processing — they’ll take part in activities such as grinding grains into flour and then using the flour to bake healthy muffins. This year’s annual event — the only major state event to lay claim to such longevity — is celebrating this milestone by introducing for the first time, half-price entry and an expanded fireworks spectacular of two displays each evening. Queensland’s largest annual event has a remarkable history, being staged every year except for just two — in 1919 due to the Spanish …

Amazon’s organic problem for farmers

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Horticulture, Markets, Produce

GLOBAL TECH GIANT Amazon’s expansion into food retailing has wowed the financial markets, but is a real problem for farmers. In the USA, the online retailer Amazon (worth $US470 billion) has bought Wholefoods for $US13.7 billion to accelerate its move into food retailing. Big dollars for an average investor, but just a minor side bet for Amazon. That caused the share price of Woolworths and Coles to slide in Australia because Amazon is stirring the Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane industrial shed market, buying-up huge distribution centres for their move into Australia. The financial market experts are all excited about the possible disruption to our grocery market, with predictions of drones delivering fresh produce to the front door of urban consumers. And Amazon/Wholefoods is particularly aimed at organic foods. The hipsters can hardly hold their pants up. But, and this is just a very practical, down to earth ‘but’, what about the farmers and food producers and packers and manufacturers? When Aldi last year started its push into fresh produce, it caused a stir in the produce markets and supply chains. And they are a minnow compared to Amazon’s financial firepower and market ambitions. A further complication is that Amazon, in …

Lockyer Valley water plan must support ‘Australia’s salad bowl’ growers

Colin Jackson Current News, Horticulture

THE QUEENSLAND Farmers’ Federation (QFF) has thrown its support behind horticulture industry member Growcom’s calls for the Lockyer Valley water plan to properly consider the needs of both individual farmers and the sector more broadly. The State Government is currently undertaking the process of trying to define water entitlements in the Central Lockyer Irrigation Scheme, one of two irrigation schemes in the region. The move towards regulating the scheme has raised concerns amongst growers around properly assessing the value of existing bores and the potential to add new water sources into the scheme. QFF president, Stuart Armitage (pictured), said that industry supports the State Government’s efforts to regulate water entitlements in the Lockyer Valley, as it was essential that the region had a viable and manageable system supporting agriculture into the future. “That said, any regulation imposed on the Lockyer Valley must be done in a way that supports the region’s $250 million horticulture industry.” “As one of the most fertile farming areas in Australia, the Lockyer Valley grows the most diverse commercial range of vegetables of any area in the country.” “Horticultural production is the major economic mainstay in the Lockyer Valley so it is essential that we have a system that supports …

Xylella fastidiosa INRA

Brisbane to host global experts discussing Australia’s #1 priority plant pest

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Enviro-Safe, Horticulture

EXPERTS FROM across the globe will come together from May 17 to 19 to share knowledge and strengthen Australia’s defences against one of the world’s most devastating plant pests, Xylella fastidiosa. Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer, Dr Kim Ritman, said diagnostics, management, control, research and collaboration would be on the agenda at the 2017 International Symposium on Xylella fastidiosa being hosted by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in Brisbane, followed by a Surveillance and Diagnostics Workshop. “Originating in the Americas, and now present in Europe, China and Iran, Xylella fastidiosa is a deadly and highly invasive plant pest that has wreaked havoc for Californian grape growers and wiped out more than a million ancient olive trees in southern Italy,” Dr Ritman said. “While the quickly spreading bacterium is not yet present in Australia, last year Xylella came in at number one in Australia’s Top 40 National Priority Plant Pests. “The department is hosting the first ever Australian conference on the pest to ensure we are on the front foot in managing the high risk Xylella poses to Australian industries. “The exotic Xylella bacterium has the potential to severely hurt our citrus, grape, olive, peach, plum and forestry industries. “The 2017 International Symposium on Xylella fastidiosa is a critical forum for addressing our ability …

HAVE YOUR SAY: Lending practices as they pertain to primary production

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Cotton, Current News, Dairy, Horticulture, Livestock, Produce, Sugar

A SENATE SELECT Committee on Lending to Primary Production Customers was established on February 16 to inquire and report on the regulation and practices of financial institutions in relation to primary production industries, including agriculture, fisheries and forestry. Committee Membership consists of: Chair: Senator Malcolm Roberts, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Deputy Chair: Senator John Williams, The Nationals, NSW Member: Senator Chris Back, Liberal Party of Australia, WA Member: Senator Anthony Chisholm, Australian Labor Party, Qld Member: Senator Jane Hume, Liberal Party of Australia, Vic Member: Senator Claire Moore, Australian Labor Party, Qld Terms of Reference will have particular reference to: The lending, and foreclosure and default practices, including constructive and non-monetary default processes; The roles of other service providers to, and agents of, financial institutions, including valuers and insolvency practitioners, and the impact of these services; The appropriateness of internal complaints handling and dispute management procedures within financial institutions; and The appropriateness of loan contract terms particular to the primary production industries, including loan-to-value ratios and provision of reasonable written notice. The committee has also resolved that: In conducting the inquiry, the committee will not investigate, or seek to resolve or adjudicate disputes between customers, banks or other parties; and …


Queensland macadamia industry on track for record high

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Horticulture

QUEENSLAND’S macadamia industry is booming, with this year’s harvest expected to bring record returns for growers. Queensland supplies half of Australia’s macadamia crop, with orchards situated from Mackay to the New South Wales border. The native nut has also captured three per cent of the global nut market, with 70 per cent of this year’s Australian crop destined for consumers in the USA, Japan, China and Europe. Production in 2016/17 is forecast to be worth $140 million — 17 per cent higher than the final estimate for 2015/16 and 97 per cent greater than the average for the past five years. Four new tree varieties were also announced last month, and are the culmination of nine years of research. The new varieties have shown potential to increase yields by up to 30 per cent and perform extremely well in the Bundaberg area.

Farm Guthalungra

Growcom welcomes new code of conduct for horticulture

Colin Jackson Current News, Horticulture

PEAK HORTICULTURE organisation, Growcom, has welcomed the announcement of the new Horticulture Code of Conduct, which will come into force on April 1. Chief Advocate, Rachel Mackenzie, said the new Code was developed after a major independent review and months of negotiation with the Australian Government and the wholesale sector. “Overall, we are happy with the new Code as it deals with some major issues which prevented widespread uptake of the previous Code, and the inclusion of Civil Penalties, means it has some actual teeth,” Ms Mackenzie said. “The biggest change is all transactions in the wholesale markets will be covered by the new Code regardless of the existing trading relationship.” She said all contracts must be compliant with the new Code by April 2018 and all transactions must be made under a Horticulture Produce Agreement (HPA). “The purpose of the Code is to improve transparency, not obstruct normal healthy business relationships, and for that reason additional flexibility has been added to the Code to reflect what happens on the market floor,” she said. “There is still a requirement to differentiate between merchant and agent transactions but growers and wholesalers now have the option to negotiate a method or formula …

Bowen vegetable growers counting the cost of Cyclone Debbie

Colin Jackson Current News, Horticulture

GROWERS IN Australia’s largest winter cropping region have taken a blow of more than $100 million after Cyclone Debbie ripped through the Bowen-Gumlu region this week. Bowen Gumlu Growers Association (BGGA) joined with Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to tour the cyclone ravaged farms once access became available on Thursday morning to estimate the extent of the damage. BGGA Industry Development Officer, Cherry Emerick, said up to 20 per cent of the region’s seedlings were planted in readiness for the season, in what is a $450 million industry that feeds the nation with vegetables from May to November. She said that today, people were still counting the costs of the damage done to their sheds, current plantings destroyed, flooded paddocks and broken equipment and most importantly, what they will do next to get back up on their feet. Many growers were still flooded-in and phone contact, running water and electricity were either unavailable or intermittent. “No matter to whom we spoke, all our growers had one thing in common — a long road ahead of them to recover their equipment and infrastructure, to prepare the paddocks again and source new seedlings — and that can’t happen overnight,” Ms Emerick said. …

Ensuring consumers get the fruit and veg they pay for

Colin Jackson Horticulture, Produce

A NEW CAMPAIGN launched by the National Measurement Institute (NMI) will help buyers and sellers get value for money as Australian fruit and vegetables make their way from the farm gate to the table. The NMI’s ‘Harvest to Home’ trade measurement inspection program will run until June, and involve oversight by NMI inspectors of the weighing, packaging and selling of fruit and vegetables throughout their journey from paddock to plate. The program will include: Visits to 1,400 traders, ranging from producers to wholesalers and retailers; Testing 1,700 measuring instruments; Inspecting 11,000 lines of packaged goods; Making 200 ‘secret shopper’ trial purchases. “We want to make sure that everyone involved in the fruit and vegetable industry, from importers and farmers to retailers, is aware of their rights and obligations under trade measurement laws,” General Manager for Legal Metrology at NMI, Bill Loizides, said. “Each year in Australia, fruit and vegetables are moved from importers and farms to our homes in millions of measurement-based transactions. In fact, around five million tonnes of produce are bought and sold each year. “Whether you’re a farmer, a wholesaler or a consumer, accurate measurement is vital to support trade, ensure fair competition among businesses, and give …

Tackle obesity with more R&D for veggies 

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Horticulture, Produce, Reader's Views

FOR AN INNOVATIVE and agile nation, why do we try to tackle obesity with sugar tax and media campaigns rather than invest more R&D on fruit and vegetable production and logistics? But President Trump may, inadvertently, drive major investment to put more and better quality “ten serves of fruit and veggies” on consumers’ tables. For all the health advice that we need to eat more fruit and veggies to tackle western society’s obesity problem, the amount invested in R&D in fruit and veggies has been declining in Australia and, until recently, in the USA from where we get a lot of our technology and seed strains. This is where we will get more and better quality fruit and veggies, rather than all those cute stories about growing veggies on urban footpaths or in high rise buildings. Most agricultural R&D globally and in Australia goes into grains, largely because it is broadacre, involves big seed sales for multinationals, and has better data as an internationally tradable commodity. Productivity shows this: since 1920, six times as much corn is grown per hectare, but lettuce production has only doubled. The baseline of vegetable research is a book called AH-66, produced in 1954 by …

Vegetable farm financial survey enters its tenth year

Colin Jackson Current News, Horticulture, Produce

THE AUSTRALIAN Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has begun the tenth Australian vegetable-growing industry survey, to gather information to help Australia’s $3.4 billion vegetable growing industry manage challenges and plan for the future. The survey will collect data about production, financial performance and socio-economic characteristics of approximately 300 vegetable-growing farms, as part of ABARES’ ongoing research into how the industry adapts to changing environmental and market factors. Acting Executive Director of ABARES, Peter Gooday, today encouraged growers to participate in the important initiative. “It is essential that both industry and government have accurate information to ensure research and development initiatives are effectively targeted,” Mr Gooday said. “ABARES’ field collectors will conduct face-to-face interviews with growers, collecting information on vegetable production types, business receipts and costs, labour use, debts and assets. “All information provided will remain confidential and survey findings will not identify individuals or their businesses. “The results provide a national and state-by-state picture of the vegetable-growing industry, and highlights its importance to the Australian economy.” ABARES conducts the vegetable-growing farm survey annually. It is co-funded by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited. The 2017 survey is expected to be …

Soils linked to antibiotic resistant bacteria

Colin Jackson Current News, Horticulture, Property

SOILS CONTAINING even small amounts of metals are more likely to contain strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria, according to new research from Edith Cowan University. Global health challenge: Antibiotic resistant bacteria pose one of the world’s most pressing health issues. Researchers from ECU’s School of Science and School of Medical and Health Sciences found that soils containing even small amounts of lead, manganese or aluminium contained bacteria with antibiotic resistance. Researcher Dr Annette Koenders said previous studies carried out overseas had shown a link between high levels of metal contamination in soil and antibiotic resistant bacteria. “But our study, undertaken in WA, shows that even low concentrations of metals are correlated with increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria,” Dr Koenders said. “This antibiotic resistance in bacteria occurs as part of a naturally occurring response to protect from pollutants or stress, especially toxic metals.” Methods: Soil samples were collected from 80 sites on residential properties around the State. The samples were analysed for the presence of 14 different metals. The DNA of the bacteria in each soil sample was analysed for the presence of genes associated with antibiotic resistance. Implications: Dr Koenders said the results showed that an assessment of the metals …

Queensland farmers encouraged to join new tariff trials

Colin Jackson Current News, Horticulture, Sugar

AROUND 200 FARMERS will help Ergon better understand business electricity needs and demands in regional Queensland as part of the Palaszczuk Government’s $10 million package to help stabilise regional power bills. Minister for Energy Mark Bailey said farmers in regional Queensland have the chance to trial off-peak and demand-based electricity tariffs under the Regional Business Support Package being delivered in conjunction with Energy Queensland and primary producer organisations. “These trials respond to requests from the agricultural sector for consideration of other tariff options to better suit the needs of primary producers,” Mr Bailey said. “Energy Queensland through Ergon Energy is now recruiting up to 200 farmers to participate in three separate trials and aims to achieve a diverse and representative selection in each trial group. “The goal is to help Ergon better understand the potential for offering controlled load and seasonal demand tariffs as an alternative to the current transitional agricultural tariffs due to expire in 2020.” The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF), which has been involved in planning the trial along with Canegrowers and Cotton Australia, welcomed the support package for regional business customers. QFF President Stuart Armitage said the cost of electricity continued to be the number one concern …

Why farmers must fight — and governments must be fairer adjudicators

Colin Jackson Cotton, Current News, Horticulture, Livestock, Markets, Sugar

AGALERT DOESN’T APOLOGISE for concentrating so much on the Wilmar dispute, even for all those farmers who don’t grow sugar cane. That’s because it goes to the heart of modern farming and current business practices. It’s a very 21st century issue much at the heart of current frustration with the political and business system by the mass of populations in western democracies around the world. Politics and business is not regarded as being about ‘what’s fair’ and ‘what’s good for as many as possible in our populations and for our country’. It’s about who can aggressively win the most. A recent stockbroker report praised a number of companies as terrific investments because they cornered a monopoly which gave them pricing power over customers, and buying power to screw suppliers as employees. That’s what CEOs earn the very big bucks for. To put their conscience in a box and grab monopoly, and screw away at everyone’s they deal with — all, of course, behind the nice politically correct mission statements about serving customers, suppliers, employees, etc, etc. CSR was a tough, paternalistic, authoritarian sugar miller for a century, but they took the big bucks from Wilmar — $1.7 billion or about …

Reforms to Horticulture Code common-sense — Growcom

Colin Jackson Horticulture

PEAK HORTICULTURE group, Growcom, has welcomed the Australian Government response to the independent review of the Horticulture Code of Conduct conducted in 2015. Chief Advocate, Rachel Mackenzie, said that the government response proposes a range of reforms to enhance transparency and accountability in transactions between growers and wholesaler, whilst at the same time enabling more flexibility in individual transactions. “Growcom was heavily involved in consultations and discussions relating to the new Horticulture Code of Conduct,” Ms Mackenzie said. “Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston, should be commended for her efforts in working with a range of stakeholders to develop a more workable Code. “Growcom was very pleased that government has supported recommendations made by the review to include civil penalties and infringement notices. This will give the ACCC some teeth when dealing with breaches of the Code. “The government response recommending that all contracts, including those entered into before December 2006, be subject to the provisions of the Code will improve uptake across the whole sector. “We have not yet seen the amended Code and obviously there are some significant details to be worked through, not the least of which is determining what activities will result …

Strengthening the future of Australian horticulture

Colin Jackson Horticulture

THE AUSTRALIAN Government has announced its response to the independent review of the Horticulture Code of Conduct, which will see a range of improvements put in place to address key concerns and ensure the ongoing sustainability and productivity of Australian horticulture. Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Anne Ruston, said it was important that the Code supported constructive and fair business between horticulture growers and traders. “Australia’s horticulture industry is one of our most valuable and important industries. It is our third largest agriculture industry, contributes $9.13 billion to the economy and employs around 57,000 people across the country,” Minister Ruston said. “The Horticulture Code of Conduct is important for the industry, because it provides a framework for the transactions between growers and traders to occur in a mutually beneficial and fair manner. “We understand the concerns that have been raised regarding the overall effectiveness of the Code, especially the number of transactions occurring outside its coverage. “It is important that the Code helps our growers receive fair and timely returns for their valuable produce, but we also need to ensure it does not restrict the trade of horticulture products. “That is why we commissioned the independent review to …

Without water, serious doubt remains over production nurseries’ viability

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Enviro-Safe, Horticulture

QUEENSLAND’S production nurseries are experiencing first-hand the consequences of State Government not listening to industry’s water use needs. Nursery and Garden Industry Queensland (NGIQ) Executive Officer, Kerry Battersby, said the viability of the industry was dependent on access to reliable and affordable water for irrigation. “Working with government is vital to ensuring the future of the industry. During the consultation process for the Wet Tropics Water Resource Operating Plan 2013, there was insufficient consideration given to the production nursery industry’s water requirements,” said Ms Battersby. “Despite consultation and members of the Nursery and Garden Industry Queensland attending community consultation meetings, the water use guidelines ignored the specific needs of the industry.” Nursery production is a unique cropping system within horticulture due to the crop being produced in artificial growing media in a defined container with limited capacity to store irrigation water. Unlike soil based crops, that have an entire soil profile from which to store and draw water, nursery production must irrigate crops daily to maintain available water within the container from which the plant survives. An average production nursery requiring 22.5ML/ha to grow a crop. The Wet Tropics Water Plan has converted existing area based licenses in areas such …

Automated weed control systems

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Horticulture

Lawrence, Kansas, USA GROWERS of specialty crops like vegetables, flowers and herbs have traditionally had limited options for herbicide-based weed control. Instead, they have relied on costly and time-consuming hand weeding to protect crop yields. Experts writing in the most recent issue of the journal Weed Technology, though, say promising new systems now hitting the market are offering broader choices. Manufacturers and start-up ventures in the U.S. and Europe are producing automated weed removal systems that marry machine vision and intelligent control technologies with precision sprayers and intra-row cultivators. These new systems are able to navigate between crop rows, ‘see’ weeds and remove them using spot spraying or robotic hoeing. Future models may offer blown sand or heat-producing flaming devices as additional weed-killing alternatives. Automated weed removal systems use size differences and crop row patterns to differentiate between crops and surrounding weeds. That means they work best before weeds are very large or their populations become very dense. Growers also may want to change crop row patterns and spacing to make it easier for the systems to remove weeds in two directions. Though developed for specialty crops, the authors say automatic weed removal technology may be an effective alternative in agronomic …


Countdown to Foreign Fairness

Colin Jackson Cotton, Current News, Dairy, Horticulture, Livestock, Produce, Sugar

THIS WEEK is a countdown to fairness of foreign-owned companies to farmers — Australian farmers in a week that includes Australia Day. Agalert will bring a series of stories, facts and political responses to this issue through the week. While the issue is centred on whether Singaporean giant Wilmar will offer a fair deal to sugar cane farmers, the issue affects all farmers. The beef, sheep (meat and wool), grains, oilseeds, fruit and vegetable processing sectors in Australia are all largely foreign-owned. Most have bought existing facilities developed by Australian companies and farmer co-ops. Their investment is not largely to build new facilities, but to control markets and eventually pricing and premium branding profits. This is the test — one that the Foreign Investment Review Board (or certainly their chairman merchant banker, Brian Wilson) has studiously avoided analysing in any depth. Are the foreign owners just using their market power (globally and in Australia) as political lobbying muscle to increase the proportion of Australian agriculture that goes to the processor and marketer — and reduce the proportion going to growers. Some have tried and been caught-out to date. Wilmar is the most blatant in trashing decades of fair split of …

Avos get (almost) final heart tick

Colin Jackson Current News, Horticulture

AVOCADOS may be a high fat fruit, but they are healthy for the heart. That’s the conclusion of the all but final report by the US Food and Drug Administration. Avos have led to a whole shake-up of how the US (and world’s) major food regulator regards ‘fat’. Originally (for the last 30 years) anything high in fat was regarded as unhealthy and bad for the heart. But then studies showed good and bad fats — those essential for healthy living and those (largely from a fast food drive through) that stick to artery walls. Avos like others fruits with fat content, have been re-classified as heart healthy because their fats break down quickly. The FDA issued its draft ruling just before Christmas, but the final ruling isn’t expected until well into 2017. Avo growers and eaters may rejoice.

Ultimatum over backpacker tax: growers won’t forget

Colin Jackson Current News, Horticulture

PEAK HORTICULTURE body, Growcom, today called on the Crossbenchers, Labor and the Greens to pass the 15 per cent backpacker tax rate in the Parliament, or be complicit in condemning industry to 32.5 per cent. “Ironically, by refusing to support the fair rate of 15 per cent agreed to by industry, they are tacitly endorsing the Coalition’s dodgy budget measure of 32.5 per cent,” said Chief Advocate Rachel Mackenzie. She said horticultural growers across Queensland would not forget today’s performance by politicians and their apparent inability to come to a compromise in the Parliament for the benefit of the horticultural industry. “Without a compromise today, these politicians are just putting in a 32.5 per cent tax regime for working holiday makers on January 1. The industry will not forget,” Ms Mackenzie said. “Today will live in infamy if politicians can’t agree to a compromise position on the backpacker tax rate in the next few hours. “It is a disgrace that in these last available hours of deliberation in the Parliament for the year, politicians are quibbling about a few percentage points either way when the horticultural industry has accepted 15 per cent and while the spectre of 32.5 per cent …

The Backpacker Tax: political brinkmanship

Colin Jackson Current News, Horticulture

PEAK HORTICULTURE body, Growcom, says growers across Queensland were absolutely crushed by the rejection of the compromise position of a 15 per cent tax rate for backpackers in the Senate earlier today. The new rate of 10.5 per cent voted on in the Senate must now go back to the House of Representatives and it seems unlikely the Coalition will back it. “This game of political brinkmanship must end,” said Growcom Chief Advocate, Rachel Mackenzie. “A 10.5 per cent tax rate that does not get passed this week is worth nothing to our growers, because it means the default position of 32.5 per cent comes into play on January 1.” Ms Mackenzie said that 15 per cent was strongly supported by the key horticultural regions in Queensland, as it is equivalent to the rate currently paid by seasonal workers under the Government’s Seasonal Worker Program. It also leaves backpackers with enough money in their pockets to spend in regional communities. “We had a number of members contact us this week expressing their relief at an end to the backpacker tax saga, and we now have to go back and tell them it may default to 32.5 per cent. “If the …

Backpacker Tax decision “an utter disappointment”

Colin Jackson Current News, Horticulture

PEAK HORTICULTURE body, Growcom, today described the lack of progress in resolving the backpacker tax issue as an utter disappointment. Growcom’s new chairman, Les Williams, said there was now only one parliamentary sitting week remaining this year for a tax rate to be negotiated and agreed on by all parties before the draconian 32.5 per cent tax rate was foisted on backpackers on January 1. “It is deeply disappointing that all parties are putting their own political gain before the genuine interests of the agriculture and tourism industries,” Mr Williams said. “Growers don’t care who started it, they only care that for the past 18 months no-one has actually managed to get an agreed rate across the line, which reflects badly on the government and badly on the Senate. “Time is running out. Our utmost desire is for all parties to remember the horticultural industry’s dependence on backpacker labour, and to get together to determine a rate that will ensure Australia remains competitive with other overseas nations as a working holiday destination. “However, on the balance of the evidence of political manoeuvrings we have witnessed in recent days, we now have no confidence the parties will be able to negotiate …

Future farms forums increasing the conversation about innovation in horticulture

Colin Jackson Current News, Horticulture

A SERIES OF FORUMS in key horticultural areas will be delivered over the next few months to increase the conversation among growers about how to go about bringing innovation onto fruit and vegetable farms. The forums are the brainchild of Steve Tiley, Growcom’s new Hort360 Innovation Coach. He says the Hort360 Innovation Coach program was launched by Growcom this year in recognition that there is a wide range of new technologies and research outcomes that might improve growers’ profits or sustainability — but that it is difficult for growers to implement these technologies into their current businesses without support. “Most growers are too busy running their farms, and don’t often have the resources to investigate the free or co-contribution government and industry support they could be receiving for funding an innovation or change of management practice on farm. “This is where Growcom’s Innovation Coach program comes in,” Mr Tiley said. “With our help, growers no longer need to spend hours on the phone or on Google, trying to find out if they are eligible for grants or other support.” Mr Tiley will explain more at the first free Future Farms Forum which will be held as part of the Startup …

Resilient 21st century farmers needed for growing north

Colin Jackson Current News, Horticulture

TROPICAL FRUIT farmer Keith Noble says resilient, entrepreneurial farmers are the key to developing north Australia. “It’s the farmers who will develop the north,” says Noble, who is undertaking a PhD in Resilience in North Queensland, as well as being a partner in an architectural firm and a tropical fruit grower. “Northern Australia is a lot more than cattle, cane, banana and mangoes. It has a lot of horticulture and a lot of biodiversity, so there’s lots of potential. “Farmers are the connecting strategy to make north Australia more resilient and to bridge the gap to the 22 million Australians who live south of the Tropic of Capricorn.” The one million people in north Australia have 45 per cent of Australia’s land mass, but only five per cent of the population and only 13 politicians versus the other 213 in federal parliament. A hundred years ago the Hutton Brothers at Bingil Bay (between Townsville and Cairns) were selling half a million pounds of coffee a year to England — before being wiped-out after WW1 by two cyclones. “It’s not an easy climate or country. “The 2011 report by the Rudd government said only 100,000 hectares was suitable for irrigation horticulture …

Backpacker turnabout an encouragement to workers from overseas

Colin Jackson Cotton, Current News, Horticulture

Horticulture, wine and fisheries to benefit from lowered backpacker tax rates THE PROPOSED 32.5 per cent tax rate that was to apply to working holiday visa holders will be reduced to 19 per cent, the Federal Government announced today. Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston, said the 19 per cent rate would go a long way in continuing to attract the seasonal workforce necessary to cope with our peak labour demands. “The Government recognises the essential role played by Australia’s Working Holiday Maker programme in our workforce, particularly across our agriculture and tourism sectors,” the Senator said. “A 19 per cent tax rate will help maintain Australia’s status as a competitive destination for working holiday makers, while ensuring that they do pay their fair level of tax. Senator Ruston said that while the approaching harvest season placed particular demands on the requirements for labour in primary industries, a viable itinerant workforce provided important year-round support to many primary producers. “We’re heading into important harvest periods for cherries and berries in Tasmania, peaches and strawberries in Queensland and tomatoes and melons in Western Australia,” she said. “Rock lobsters begin in November in Western Australia, scallop-splitting in January for Tasmania …


Bombing with beneficial bugs becomes BMP video case study

Colin Jackson Current News, Horticulture

GROWCOM’s Hort360 program, the best management practice program for horticulture, has released a new video case study highlighting the farm systems implemented by local Sunshine Coast grower Taste ‘n’ See to control pests and reduce chemical use. The Bellmere-based joint venture markets around 350,000 cartons of strawberries each year from the adjoining Stoddard and Schiffke family properties. Pest management is something taken very seriously at Taste ‘n’ See, as damage from insects can quickly become costly. Central to their strategy is the use of beneficial insects. In recent years, the company has employed the services of Aerobugs, who utilised a 1.4 metre drone to spread beneficial insects onto the crops to control pests, which saves significant time and money. “Before we discovered Aerobugs, we’d manually go along and move the beneficial bugs up row-by-row, which was a very slow process,” owner and manager of Taste ‘n’ See, Merv Schiffke said. “But now Aerobugs comes along and does the work, and what would have taken us all day to do they can do in around 15 to 20 minutes. “It is an amazing scene to see the little drone working. It is a very effective way of releasing those little animals …

Nursery industry gets serious about energy efficiencies

Colin Jackson Coming Events, Current News, Horticulture

THE QUEENSLAND Farmers’ Federation’s (QFF) Energy Savers Program is partnering with industry member Nursery & Garden Industry Queensland (NGIQ) to hold an Energy Field Day in Brisbane. The Aspley Nursery Field Day will be held on Thursday, September 15, and will include presentations from local growers and experts in irrigation efficiency and renewable energy. The field day will provide a comprehensive insight to growers about ways in which they can monitor and improve their energy efficiency, with particular emphasis on irrigation, water heating for propagation and lighting. QFF President Stuart Armitage said the Energy Savers program is run in conjunction with Ergon Energy, and is designed to assist growers reduce energy costs. “Given the highly intensive production systems used within the nursery and garden industry, there are significant efficiencies that can be applied to often large consumptions of electricity and water,” he said. “This workshop will give nursery owners and managers practical advice on how to reduce energy consumption through efficient irrigation, lighting and heating, as well as generating their own solar power.” NGIQ President Paul Lancaster encouraged fellow growers and industry operators to attend the Aspley Nursery Field Day:
“People attending will hear from the Aspley Nursery owners about some great …