Firstly thank you to Michele for introducing me in the last edition of the magazine, when I had only just stepped into the role of CEO. For those of you who don’t know me, I come from an apple and pear growing background and I’ve been an APAL Director over the last ten years. I am excited to now take my knowledge of the industry and APAL, and use it alongside my business skills in my role as APAL CEO.
The last two months have been a whirlwind of activity familiarising myself with the details of the projects the organisation manages and the Pink Lady® side of the business. The board of APAL have tasked me with preparing a strategy for APAL that addresses the organisations most significant challenges:
- What is APAL’s industry services strategy going forward and how can we add genuine value to levy payers?
- Growing our commercial business so APAL is a viable, future-proofed organisation that can continue to deliver on our industry services strategy – adding genuine value to levy payers.
The preparation of this strategy is my priority over the coming months and the intention is it will be finalised in the first half of next year. You may see some more changes at APAL over this time as we recalibrate our work to better service growers.
The other component of that work is to further understand and better support the Pink Lady® component of APAL’s work to ensure it can function in the best possible way. Unlike many other horticultural industry bodies, APAL has been relatively financially secure despite our relationship with Horticulture Innovation Australia (our major source of industry services funding) changing. APAL has been able to support our industry services through revenue raised by the Pink Lady business.
Our commercial team, led by Garry Langford, manages the Pink Lady brand in numerous territories worldwide and invests in the marketing and development of the Pink Lady brand internationally. This is significant body of work and one that the APAL Board recognises may need further strategic support and guidance moving forward.
Strategy aside, the biggest news that has landed since my commencement has been the announcement that backpackers coming to Australia on a working holiday-maker visa will be taxed at the new rate of 15 per cent from the first dollar earned. This is a great improvement on the proposed 32.5 per cent that we were otherwise facing.
Backpackers are vital to our industry and many apple and pear growers rely very heavily on them to pick fruit and help out in the orchard and packing shed. I just hope that the delayed decision to reduce the tax rate hasn’t already caused backpackers, who were otherwise planning on coming to Australia, to make plans to work elsewhere. We will watch how this evolves over the coming months as we head towards the first harvest of pears, followed by apples, in the New Year.
There were a lot of organisations and individuals, including apple and pear growers and state associations, doing significant lobbying work to advocate for a reduced backpacker tax. I would like to thank everyone who had a role in getting us to where we are now – it’s hard to imagine the shock such a higher rate would have dealt the industry and the severe difficulties many fruit-growing businesses would have faced. APAL will be looking more closely at how we can be more effective, including through partnerships, in advocating for the best interests of apple and pear growers in the future.
I look forward getting out into the growing regions in the new year to listen and learn from our grower base.
For now though, may I wish you and all your families, friends and loved ones, a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!