At the time of writing this harvest is well underway, with indications that marketable apple volumes will be lower than in 2017, primarily driven by a reduced Granny Smith crop in the Goulburn Valley and the hail event that has impacted the South Australian crop.
Pear volumes are up on last year with gross tonnes and packouts having increased with very good quality expected. This pear supply situation has created considerable challenges
in the domestic market.
APAL has sought support from marketers, wholesalers and retailers to recognise the Australian consumer’s preference for high quality Australian produce and to provide growers with fair pricing that creates a sustainable industry capable of delivering quality fruit into the future.
While there might be an expectation that lower pricing would grow volume, both apple and pear consumption remains either flat or in decline, so it appears low prices are not increasing consumer demand.
We need to understand the underlying issues here and to this end APAL has commissioned a considerable piece of independent consumer research to understand this lack of growth in our category. This piece of work will form the foundation of our approach to reignite excitement and growth in the category.
APAL recently met with both apple and pear exporters and there is growing interest in engaging with lapsed and new export markets. While these are highly competitive markets, our industry’s reliance on the domestic market has added considerably to business risk. The longer-term export opportunities are with premium varieties/brands in seasonal windows where we can better compete with Southern Hemisphere competitors, through a consolidated number of packer/exporters who are resourced to invest in these markets.
APAL is part of the newly-formed Horticultural Council within the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF). We believe participation in this council will give apple and pear growers access to the skills, network and knowledge of the NFF; an established and successful policy and advocacy body.
Horticulture is a very diverse industry with wide-ranging needs and priorities but many of the issues facing farmers and growers are similar, so addressing these challenges together is more likely to deliver sustainable solutions. Clearly the priority will always be to best represent apple and pear growers, but our interests intersect with those of other horticultural commodities, so a unified voice will be clearer, stronger and more effective.
This leads me to the opportunities that may come from attending our national, combined industry conference, Hort Connections. During both the APAL and wider conference sessions delegates will hear from a number of local and international experts — from researchers to futurists. The Trade Show is jam-packed with a range of exhibitors from packaging specialists to machinery and chemical resellers. But best of all, you will have access to your industry peers, whether it’s other apple and pear growers, business owners along the supply chain or the APAL and Hort Innovation teams – the conference provides an opportunity to meet with everyone in one place for an extended period of time.
I hope harvest concludes smoothly and productively and I look forward to seeing you at Hort Connections in Brisbane, 17-20 June.