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From the CEO: Spring Report

News

A note that this article was written several weeks ago to be included in the Spring AFG magazine.

In any ‘normal’ year the seasonal outlook would give us reason to be cautiously optimistic. Most of our growing regions are reporting positive seasonal outlooks with rainfall and irrigation resources ahead of previous years, current season prices are holding firm (albeit on reduced volumes from some regions) and our supply chains are continuing to meet consumer demand for apples and pears across the nation.

This week we showcase the recipients of the 2020 APAL Awards for Excellence. The 2020 recipients come from all areas of our industry and are a wonderful reflection on the industry’s progress, innovation and its people.

In addition to recognising the tremendous contribution by each and every award recipient, I would also like to acknowledge the state association representatives who are an integral part of the awards process and who collectively made recommendations to the APAL board. This is yet another example of the partnership we share with our state associations and the value they bring to the betterment of our industry at a national level.

The Awards would usually be celebrated at our annual Industry Forum but COVID-19 has prevented us coming together to recognise these achievements. Instead we are already looking forward to the 2021 celebrations where we will recognise and celebrate both 2020 and 2021 recipients.

The outlook for our industry is a welcome change from fires, pests, hail, and drought – our more familiar seasonal concerns. We recognise that for many of our growers the rebuilding and recovery will take years and we can only hope positive seasonal conditions along with the funding commitments made by State and Federal Governments are making the journey a little easier.

Labour challenges loom large

Unfortunately, COVID-19 brings very little good news. It continues to cast a long shadow for an industry that is dispersed across the nation and critically dependent on seasonal labour. The one ray of sunshine has been the continuing commitment by governments at all levels, the agri-political bodies and the many horticulture industries to work cooperatively and quickly to bring certainty where we can.

Our seasonal labour challenge can be described in four themes – to minimise labour leakage by moving quickly to stem the departure of existing labour sources; to maximise the safe movement of labour into Australia and between growing regions via programs such as the Seasonal Worker Programme; to manage the uncontrolled movement of labour that presents unreasonable risks to local communities, regions and supply chains by improving cooperation within and across horticulture industries; and finally, as someone described it, ‘pulling out all the stops to attract local labour’ – particularly in a year when plans for a gap year and end of year celebrations are uncertain. Our Advocacy Update on page 5 has further details of our efforts to date.

Again, I would like to acknowledge the cooperation of the state associations who are generously working with us to ensure timely updates and data is available to decision makers.

New directions emerge

If there is one upside to 2020 it is the game-changing impact of travel restrictions on how we share knowledge and ideas. Our webinars and virtual orchard walks attracted almost 500 participants with many of us taking the opportunity to have a peek into another state’s orchards.

We have received terrific ideas and feedback from members on how the online delivery options can be tailored to suit future orchard and business needs – from training courses to international study tours. These present some incredibly exciting new directions for our flagship extension program Future Orchards as well as our rapidly evolving Future Business program, and further reinforce the importance of these programs being designed and delivered for growers and by growers.

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