As the COVID-19 crisis continues, AUSVEG and other Australian horticulture industry bodies have been working on a range of different issues, as well as investigating options to address them. AUSVEG National Public Affairs Manager Tyson Cattle has provided a brief update on what has, and still is, being worked on by industry.

Tyson Cattle.

 

At the time of writing, the Federal Government had made a clear change of focus to economic recovery in Australia. This provides an unique opportunity for industry to build proactive policy to help grow the sector. The feedback so far from government has been positive, and AUSVEG is working to deliver some good long-term outcomes for growers.

It is clear the main two areas of concern for industry have been around labour continuity and confidence, as well as market confidence to be able to sell produce.

Labour has continued to be a concern in the short- to medium-term, with the expectation that many backpackers who are currently in the country working on farms will return home once things return to normal after COVID-19. There is also an expected drop in backpackers travelling to Australia in the short- to medium-term, which will put severe pressure on growers.

It is important that the horticulture industry is ahead of this, which is why industry is engaging with government to improve visa settings to the programs in which it relies upon. Programs such as the Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement, Seasonal Worker Programme and the Pacific Labour Scheme can be improved to allow industry to access a reliable, efficient, and competent workforce.

The markets area is far more complex for industry to address. AUSVEG has been engaged with government on a number of fronts, including looking at pathways to get fresh produce to charities, as well as looking at export opportunities to countries who are net importers and may be facing hardship, particularly during the COVID-19 situation.

These opportunities are complicated and are a challenging process for any industry to undertake, but AUSVEG is continuing its discussion with relevant stakeholders as it sees short- and longer-term benefits for industry.

Industry campaigns

Another activity that AUSVEG is currently undertaking is looking at ways to increase domestic consumption of fresh produce. AUSVEG is a member of the newly-formed Fruit & Vegetable Consortium, as well as supporting the ‘Eat Yourself to Health’ campaign that has been launched by Queensland’s peak body for horticulture, Growcom. Additionally, we are supporting Hort Innovation’s newly-launched ‘Good Mood Food’ campaign.

AUSVEG is continuing to work with Federal Government and relevant stakeholders to look at options to help improve the current situation for growers, and welcomes any feedback or ideas from growers on these issues.

Vegetable growers are encouraged to head to the AUSVEG advocacy webpage online for the latest information on advocacy activities.

Policy discussion: Key points

Some of the policy ideas that have been raised with the Federal Government to help fast track economic recovery for horticulture include:

  • Improved visa settings for growers to access a more reliable, efficient, and competent workforce.
  • Greater focus on bulk exports to net importing countries of food with the objective to get better longer-term trade outcomes.
  • Continuation of the payroll tax exemptions and land tax to help growers invest back into their business.
  • On-farm accommodation grants to assist growers in being able to meet pastoral care requirements for their workers.
  • Support for marketing and domestic consumption and promoting healthier eating.
  • Support to grow vegetable exports by assisting growers to become export-ready.
  • Extension of the instant asset write-off.
  • Any policy changes that encourage greater investment back into the business.

Find out more

Please contact AUSVEG National Public Affairs Manager Tyson Cattle on 03 9882 0277 or email tyson.cattle@ausveg.com.au. Further details can be found at ausveg.com.au/ausveg-advocacy.

This article first appeared in the winter 2020 edition of  Vegetables Australia. Click here to read the full publication.