SOUTH Australia's horticulture industry has announced a bold new plan to grow the sector's worth to $5 billion by 2030 and create thousands of jobs.
A sign of the industry's strength following last week's destructive hailstorm that wiped out fruit crops and vineyards, the Horticulture Coalition of SA released its 2021 Blueprint on November 4, outlining fruit fly eradication, workforce development and water security as priorities to secure food supply for SA.
HCSA chairman Angelo Demasi said this was a crucial time for the industry that not only fed South Australians but exported $374 million in produce in the 2019/20 financial year.
"We have set a lofty goal of $5b by 2030 and we believe a collaborative effort between growers, state government and the SA community can achieve this," he said.
"Despite devastating bushfires and crippling hailstorms, including the weather event last week, the horticulture industry has managed to grow an average of five per cent per annum in the past six years.
"That proves we are resilient and the industry has banded together to help growers who are counting the cost. Now is the time to future-proof the industry. Now is the time to act."
HCSA is made up of 12 organisations that represent the more than 3000 fruit, vegetable and nut growers across the state and the body believes preserving the state's enviable fruit fly free reputation has never been more important, but the battle is taking its toll.
Fresh fruit growers within outbreak areas have suffered millions of dollars in lost revenue through a lack of suitable treatment options and disruptions to market access.
"This requires a continued commitment to eradication programs as well as every South Australian with fruit trees in their backyard to be vigilant," Mr Demasi said.
SA growers are crying out for seasonal workers with some reporting fruit being downgraded or going to waste because of a lack of labour.
"There aren't enough workers in regional areas and we need to look at how we can attract people from the city as well as continue to use migrant workers," Mr Demasi said.
Continued investment in programs such as the highly successful SA government $5 million labour workforce program will help to facilitate places and quarantine arrangements for international workers.
The Coalition is also calling for government-subsidised cadetships and graduate programs to increase the number of skilled workers on farms with a particular focus on technology and innovation.
"There are so many exciting and varied career pathways available to young people who want to work in horticulture," Mr Demasi said.
"We estimate this will continue to grow with an additional 3000 full-time jobs created by 2030."
Water availability, security and affordability across all production regions are critical for horticultural production and will rely on maintaining the rights of water licence holders, according to HCSA.
"Industry and government must work together on a water plan to ensure we have a balanced approach between irrigators, the environment and urban use," said Mr Demasi.
The Coalition is calling for protection of the state's water sharing agreement for the Murray Darling Basin and additional investment in flood mitigation around the Gawler River floodplain.
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