It’s been a very busy two months at APAL. At the very successful 2016 National Horticulture Convention in late June, numbers were up 25 per cent on last year and there was great attendance at all sessions and APAL’s Annual General Meeting.
We then had the opportunity to celebrate our national award winners. Congratulations to our two very worthy Lifetime Achievement Awards winners, David Gartrell from New South Wales and Ugo Tomasel from Queensland, both of whom have had very successful careers in the industry and put a lot of their personal time into developing our industry. And of course our Grower of the Year, the inspirational Mark Trzaskoma of Battunga Orchards in Victoria.
The team at APAL put a lot of time, including weekends, into the Convention and the quality of the speakers and presentations, the overall organisation and the social opportunities reflected this. Thanks again to the team.
The Convention was immediately followed by our most successful Future Orchards® round yet (based on attendance) focussing on soil health and labour efficient canopies. This was topped off by a well-attended Pear Masterclass featuring Anton Jongerius from The Netherlands and Marcel Veens our local expert. Attended by 57 participants in the Goulburn Valley, the major presentations have been filmed and are available on the website for locals that missed out and also our pear growers in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
We have also completed half the Grower Roadshows providing an update on current issues and giving our members an opportunity to raise issues with APAL. This year we invited Hort Innovation, our Research and Development Corporation, to participate to encourage greater industry consultation and input into how and where industry levies are spent. Our industry’s Relationship Manager at Hort Innovation, Mark Spees, has attended all roadshows to date. The remaining Grower Roadshows will be completed in August and September.
As the roadshows are taking place we are taking the opportunity to introduce consultants David McKinna and Catherine Wall to growers. They are preparing the Strategic Investment Plan for apples and pears, which will provide the direction on where levy funds should be spent over the next three to five years. Combining the visits has saved time and resulted in some great input and questioning about the appropriate research and development projects and, importantly, effective marketing to increase apple and pear consumption, which will hopefully improve margins to growers. Please provide input to the Strategic Investment Plan, but if you can’t make the meetings please feel free to email the consultants on firstname.lastname@example.org.
APAL is also in the process of implementing an online export registration system with a grant from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. The project aims to facilitate market access into protocol markets by providing growers, packhouses and treatment facilities with an efficient and streamlined registration process. This process is working very successfully in other horticulture export industries. We continue to see great growth in pear exports, especially in Indonesia, and apple exports look good for the balance of the year.
Our biggest challenge, particularly after two large crops of apples is getting a better return to growers – a closer relationship with our retail and wholesale customers is essential to achieve this. APAL is also working with Hort Innovation to build these relationships and better manage the apple and pear category and ensure effective marketing and sales support. This is a work in progress and we hope to make some announcements later this year to be ready for the 2017 crops.
On the political front we have retained our Minister and Assistant Minister and continue to push through with the Voice of Horticulture for a better deal for horticulture, in particular on labour issues, especially the backpacker tax, the modern horticulture award and export opportunities.