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New technologies, advocacy, and looking forward

Industry Advocacy

Michele Allan presented this speech to the APAL AGM on 14 November 2019.

Welcome everyone and thank you for attending today’s Annual General Meeting of your industry PIB.

A particularly warm welcome to those who have travelled in from country growing regions, or even interstate – spring is one of the busiest times in the orchard, so we do appreciate you taking the time -to be here, contributing your voice to the collective action that is driving our industry forward.

This time last year, you – our members – were very clear about the change you wanted to see: Investment in our industry needs to be industry-led with growers, packers, researchers and APAL having a say in how we spend your levy.

I’m pleased that your request’s have been taken seriously, not just by APAL, but by Hort Innovation with respect to a review around the marketing levy. We now have an industry-inclusive structure for developing and implementing out a new long-term marketing strategy, for the apple and pear industry.

We believe by working together – Hort Innovation, APAL, FMCG marketing experts – and industry – we will be able to resolve the current disconnect between short-term, tactical marketing campaigns and long-term flat line growth in consumption of our products.

We have also been pleased to see apple and pear growers, through APAL’s industry advocacy efforts, making a real impact with government. Schemes like the National Netting Program will benefit all growers –whether you have already or are yet to invest in netting. Like most bold plans, these things take time. We understand the response has been positive by growers. The recent inclusion of permanent plantings in the On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate scheme, indicates that your needs are being taken seriously at the highest levels of government.

This shift in the level of advocacy has only been possible thanks to the non-levy funded work that APAL has invested in (International Pink Lady and Coregeo). Some of you will recall that back in 2015, Hort Innovation ceased providing funding to all PIBs, and most have subsequently been unable to invest in activities such as government relations. APAL is in the enviable position of being able to use revenue from our commercial interests overseas to deliver the best outcomes for Industry by investing in initiatives and strategic programs for the benefit of the apple and pear industry.

Last year, I shared with you our enthusiasm, and concerns, about the emerging mega-trends that are already disrupting our industry.

As an Industry, apple and pears growers have made a positive start and in the past 12 months. adopting new technologies to address labour shortages, piloting new premium-branded offerings, and driving for rigorous, science-based biosecurity protocols.

That said, these kinds of issues including – climate change, modern slavery, soil degradation, biosecurity, robotics and water security – are too big to be tackled by any one industry, much less able to be solved by Apples & Pears alone.

Food and farming is valued at a combined $800 billion, making it Australia’s largest sector. But we are fragmented, and it makes you wonder what could be achieved if we worked together in a coalition of the willing for the common good.

The existing levy system and matching government funds have historically allowed a focus on the needs of levy payers in each ag sector.

It remains unclear if government matched funding will continue into the future. What is being discussed at the Council of Research and Development corporations is whether some of the  Federal Government, $430 million which is currently divided between  15  Research and Development Corporation (like Hort Innovation), should be spent collectively towards investing in R&D on big issues that face all farmers?

We need better mechanisms for cross-industry collaboration and vastly better connection between the farm and the consumer. So perhaps it’s time to move beyond a vertical mentality, and look to a horizontal approach to ensure the future of food and farming in this country? That is not just looking at Hort and grains looking at what all farmers could benefit from.

This is a view that is being taken by the Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre within the Dept Industry, Innovation and Science. It is reviewing whether by 2025 the Agricultural Industry will be working together to create a larger share for Australian food in the global marketplace.

We are seeing emerging examples of this happening in our industry, for example – the export panel at the APAL Industry Forum bought perspectives from Citrus Australia and Table Grapes, giving us a very clear indication of how much faster we can move, if we learn from each other.  The Future Orchards international study tour and APAL’s Young Leaders’ Network all take the same attitude towards collaboration.

Biosecurity is one of those key issues that need horizontal focus and investment. Nothing is more important to our future profitability than protecting Australia’s biosecurity.  Investing in biosecurity surveillance and analysis programs, as well as public awareness campaigns, which adequately protect our most valuable resource, are as imperative for apple and pear growers, as they are for potatoes, poultry or berries.  APAL co-ordinates on behalf of our industry the joint investment in the Plant Biosecurity work and Plant Health Australia.

Some of the RDCs have been successful shifted their focus from short term projects, to longer term investments that will change these industries.

Likewise, the Apple & Pear 5-year Industry strategy, of which you are now in year one, takes a similar longer-term perspective.  This includes programs like Future Business and Export Readiness, which will help to reshape our industry’s skills and technical profile.

The Board of APAL has been focused this year on the growth of the International Pink Lady business, to enable investment in your industry- outside of the levy investment. The management team have ensured that all licensees are paying the correct fees and auditing the shipping of products. As you will see from the accounts, the focus of APAL on the International Pink Lady and Coregeo business strategically enables APAL to invest in programs for all growers. There are very few PIBs that are in APAL’s position and we should thank our forebears for their efforts.

APAL Board and management have also focused on growing non-traditional international Pink Lady markets – especially to enable Australian growers to participate.

In closing, I’d like to thank my fellow APAL directors for their efforts over the past year. Our CEO and his impressive team at APAL have delivered the first outputs of the new Industry and APAL Strategy and, through their commercial business, can fund far more.

And in closing, I’d like to offer my thank to you, our members. Your willingness to try new technologies; tackle new markets; experiment with new varieties and pilot new approaches like “John’s Pick” is ultimately core to our successful future.

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