From the CEO: Responding to adversityNews
2020 is a year like no other. COVID-19 has changed lives, lifestyles, and livelihoods around the globe. We continue to witness significant challenges for so many families and communities, and we are beginning to understand the economic impact. In amongst this turmoil, our industry has responded in many positive ways:
– When the community questioned whether fresh produce could transfer COVID-19 our industry responded swiftly to dispel these myths and reassure consumers. Hort Innovation has gone further launching an all-of-hort campaign that reinforces the health benefits of fruit and vegetables.
– More than 500 orchards across Australia adapted their operations and picked, packed, and distributed fresh produce to domestic and international markets and processors.
– The Federal and State Governments prioritised national and international food supply chains. As a member of the National Farmers Federation’s Horticultural Council and with the assistance of growers and state organisations, APAL has been at the virtual table for weekly meetings with key government stakeholders. In this forum we continue to represent members and inform the design of protocols – from transport and logistics to extending visas for seasonal workers. Not everything has gone to plan but Australia’s response has shown solid, pragmatic thinking and cooperation across businesses, industries, communities, and government.
Keeping industry informed
As I write this column, I am also reflecting on how our delivery of member services has changed. This time last year we were hosting our annual APAL Forum in Melbourne. This year we are delivering 15 webinars and virtual orchard walks that have already attracted more than 226 growers, researchers, and industry members. The uptake by members and the wider industry has been incredible. There’s more detail about the program in this edition and I encourage everyone to give the online delivery a try.
Netting, bushfire recovery and drought stay on the agenda
Virtual meetings have opened doors to government. With support from impacted growers APAL capitalised on the virtual forums and access to policy makers to present APAL’s ‘Build Back Better: Apple Industry Bushfire Recovery Plan’ to both Federal and State Governments. The five-year recovery plan has been well received and we are very pleased to see it supported with recent funding announcements from both tiers of government. In May the NSW Government began accepting applications for matching-grants of up to $120,000 a hectare and APAL hosted a virtual meeting to assist Batlow and Bilpin growers navigate the application process. On 23 June the Federal Government announced $31 million of bushfire recovery funding, also on a matching basis, for fire impacted growers in both NSW and South Australia. We are optimistic the guidelines for the Federal Government’s $24 million national netting program will be released soon. We have also met with Stanthorpe industry members to confirm the immediate and longer-term needs for a region that is severely impacted by ongoing drought and incurring unsustainable water carting costs to keep permanent tree plantings alive.
Make apples and pears count!
APAL has embarked on a program to build a more detailed, data-driven understanding of our industry. This process will take time and will involve APAL seeking orchard and business data from all growers. Why? So we can generate services and insights that will help you build a stronger business, a stronger industry and strengthen our advocacy and market access messages. Our Bushfire Recovery Plan is a fantastic example of the importance of data to building a compelling case to present to policy makers. This month’s Advocacy Update (page 5) explores this further and the Plan is available from our website. Grower data is also building a powerful picture of how, as an industry, we can achieve more affordable insurance premiums. Our Future Business team has
provided an update in this edition and I encourage you to be a part of this project. Our data collection project will progressively build a more detailed understanding of the challenges, needs and operations of Australia’s apple and pear industry.