A decade of growth lays platform for next 10 years | OPINION

A decade of growth in the vegetable industry lays platform for next 10 years | OPINION

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NEED: Ausveg chairman, Bill Bulmer, says the next 10 years will undoubtedly see a lot of change for the vegetable industry, but one thing that will not change is that people will need to eat more vegetables, and we need to be able to increase supply to meet an ever-increasing local and international demand.

NEED: Ausveg chairman, Bill Bulmer, says the next 10 years will undoubtedly see a lot of change for the vegetable industry, but one thing that will not change is that people will need to eat more vegetables, and we need to be able to increase supply to meet an ever-increasing local and international demand.

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Ausveg chairman, Bill Bulmer, says there are changes to come in the vegetable industry.

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THE last 12 months have been extremely challenging for many growers in the vegetable industry, as well as the wider horticulture industry, particularly those who are hardworking and law-abiding, and struggling to keep up with rising costs and tightening profit margins.

Not only are growers impacted by drought, fires and lack of water, they are often forced to do this without the full complement of workers they need to operate their businesses to their full potential.

Ausveg has been working with growers, industry and government to find ways for the industry to access an efficient, reliable and competent workforce to address the chronic shortage of labour.

One of the important outcomes from 2019 was the development and submission of an Industry Labour Agreement that was approved by government in December, which will see a select list of skilled and semi-skilled workers allowed to fill jobs where local growers can demonstrate there are no local workers able or willing to fill them.

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This is an important piece of the horticulture labour puzzle, as it is another option to help businesses get the skilled workforce they require as our industry becomes more skilled and technologically-savvy.

There is no doubt this is not a 'silver bullet' for growers and a significant shortage of labour still exists, particularly for picker and packing roles.

We will continue to look for workable solutions to help growers address this serious issue.

Ausveg will continue to be a driving force to ensure that it undertakes meaningful and effective representation on behalf of Australia's horticulture growers. - Bill Bulmer, chair, Ausveg

Ausveg was successful in developing the proposal for this important agreement in part because it did so with the backing of the wider horticulture industry through the Horticulture Council, which includes about a dozen industry representative bodies that are working together on issues that are common across all of horticulture.

Given the fragmented nature of the industry, it is important that we come together to help advance the cause of all horticulture growers on the common issues that impede our ability to improve productivity, competitiveness and profitability.

Ausveg will continue to be a driving force to ensure that it undertakes meaningful and effective representation on behalf of Australia's horticulture growers.

Another important mechanism to help bring the horticulture industry together is the increasingly successful Hort Connections event.

We were pleased to see so many farmers at last year's event in Melbourne, as it can be the only time during the year where we can get off the farm and meet with our peers and learn new ideas for the farm, meet new people and make new business connections.

The next 10 years will undoubtedly see a lot of change for the vegetable industry, but one thing that will not change is that people will need to eat more vegetables, and we need to be able to increase supply to meet an ever-increasing local and international demand. - Bill Bulmer, chair, Ausveg

This year's event will be taking place in Brisbane from June 15-17 and will explore the topic of Sustaining the Future of Fresh.

We have already confirmed over 10 industry co-hosts from the fruit, vegetable and nut industries, with others likely to be confirmed in the weeks and months ahead.

I encourage as many farmers and agribusiness professionals to come along for the event, hear from the industry's leading speakers and share some quality time with your fellow farmers from home and from across Australia.

As we usher in the new decade, we can reflect on how far we have come as an industry over the last 10 years. What will the next decade bring?

What technologies will our industry begin to adopt as we head into the 2020s?

The next generation of farm robotics? Virtual and integrated realities?

The next 10 years will undoubtedly see a lot of change for the vegetable industry, but one thing that will not change is that people will need to eat more vegetables, and we need to be able to increase supply to meet an ever-increasing local and international demand.

  • Bill Bulmer is a vegetable grower and chairman of Ausveg.
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