When I sat down to prepare the CEO’s Report for the March edition of Australian Fruit Grower magazine some six weeks ago, early crop estimates were favourable.
Talk of bumper crops was tempered by my natural inclination for caution and experience that much can happen before all crops are safely delivered off tree.
As reported last week however, and by the time the magazine arrives in your letterbox, unprecedented heat and drought has since taken its toll on the crop estimate.
Regardless of ultimate harvest volume, one thing was made clear to me by importers at Fruit Logistica: Demand for high-quality Australian fruit is up in the UK and Europe. Historically serviced by South America and South Africa, internal browning issues with late 2018 season arrivals from those markets has broadened importers’ outlook. As with all fresh produce exports into the EU, growers will need to meet EU residue MRLs, notably DPA thresholds.
As you dig deep at this busiest time of year, APAL has also been making good progress on a number of industry-critical projects:
First, Industry’s calls to establish an alternative marketing strategy and structure have shifted gear with APAL drafting the governance framework for a Strategy Marketing Panel, previously endorsed by Hort Innovation as the new, preferred approach.
Regular meetings between APAL leadership and the CEO of Hort Innovation continue as we share draft selection criteria, position descriptions, and communications. Consensus on the qualifications, skills and experience required for Panel selection, will be fundamental to success.
Closely tied to marketing is APAL’s work to drive greater consistency of quality across Industry. Addressing the issue of immature and over-ripe fruit is the ultimate aim of the Apple & Pear Maturity Project but first we need to gather the necessary data that will set a baseline for what will be an enormously useful comparative benchmark in coming years. Since January, this data has been coming in weekly from the growing regions across multiple maturity markers in Gala, Pink Lady® and Williams pears.
Secondly, also as highlighted in last week’s Industry Juice, APAL is lobbying both State and Federal Government to support a National Netting Program over the next five to 10 years.
With well over half of apple and pear orchards not currently protected, accelerated depreciation, grants and continued low interest loans will provide a significant financial incentive to growers to act now to protect crops against not only hail, but sunburn, flying foxes, birds, and as measure of water conservation.
We are hopeful SA Government’s decision to waive Lenswood Cold Stores Co-Operative $1.3 million debt signals meaningful government engagement with Industry, and a step in the right direction for much needed netting.
Next, the Biosecurity Committee, formed by APAL in response to Government’s risk assessment to permit import of US-apples into Australia, has also made good headway. Kevin Clayton-Greene, our appointed biosecurity advisor, has completed an independent risk investigation on behalf of Industry.
While the Department’s own draft assessment is now not expected until mid-way through 2019, Kevin and other senior APAL staff have met with the Government’s Biosecurity Plant Division during January to highlight early findings and concerns.
Complementing the productivity strides made through Future Orchards®, APAL’s new Future Business offering has also kicked off. Designed to lift capability ‘beyond the orchard’, Future Business will provide the hands-on training, tools and insights to help you and your teams optimise the business from a commercial perspective.