I write this editorial after completing successful grower visits to South Australia and Western Australia with our new APAL Directors Joe Ceravolo and Paul Good, respectively. Unfortunately our Chair Michele Allan, who was scheduled to join us, was unable to come at the last moment, but I know she will be keen to see growers at our other roadshows that will occur in September and October for New South Wales and Queensland respectively.
When we visit growers, both our Directors and I learn about the local, state and national issues affecting grower profitability and viability, which assists us to represent you together.
Apart from water issues, where in SA there are limited rights and growers are now being charged for those rights, and continued climate change concerns, especially in the western Perth district as advised from a very productive meeting with the Hills Orchard Improvement Group (HOIG), common issues included:
Despite lobbying at the highest levels by APAL, the tax rate charged to temporary working holiday makers on 417 and 462 visas will be aligned to the non-resident tax rate of 32.5 per cent, as an approved budget initiative. This means people on those visas will be taxed at 32.5 per cent from their first dollar of income and will no longer be able to access resident tax treatment, including the tax-free threshold. This means they will get less pay in their pockets overall. But remember that even with this tax, backpackers will still earn three to six times what they can in their home country – if they can get work there.
APAL, via the Voice of Horticulture, is challenging any issue that will have a detrimental impact on grower and packer viability. The review of the Modern Horticulture Award, along with 120 other modern awards, is also stirring up issues around part time and casual employment that we are trying to address to maintain sensible and fair employment conditions for our industry.
Prices for our produce are well down on last year with no apparent reason. Pear production is the same as last year and the quality is up, yet we have been rewarded with a significant drop in price – pushing many growers to question whether they have a future. The story is not much better with apples. However, we are seeing and encouraging a concerted, albeit small, push toward increasing exports which could result in more competition for our produce and better domestic prices.
APAL will meet with the major retailers to discuss consumer demands and industry viability.
This year we have needed all the support we can get and yet we haven’t seen any apple marketing. The new grower advisory panel on marketing and the new HIA marketing team were both discussed during the grower roadshow, as was the loss of momentum caused by the previous HIA marketing team. For an update on current marketing plans please see the article by Alena Swinbourne, the new HIA Marketing Manager for apples and pears. I believe the new, open, transparent and collaborative approach that is emerging, will result in changes that will increase domestic consumption.
Spring is here and we have moved into our new premises – it is a more efficient space and by investing the proceeds of the sale of the old office we expect to clear $20,000 a year after paying rent. The building in which we lease space is owned by the Lamana family well known for their bananas. I have organised for the Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce to officially open the office in October.
As you read this report I will have completed two years in my role as CEO of APAL and I would like to thank you for your support, my education, and building a base of knowledge and a helpful network to now go on and build the industry both in terms of domestic consumption and exports with the very capable APAL team.