Chair Column – Stephen Lowe

As ABGC Chair and a grower myself, I can certainly relate to the growing concerns of producers nationally as we collectively navigate through some of the most challenging times we’ve ever faced.

Over the last 60 years of production there have been tough periods but it would seem that multiple external forces have combined to make the present conditions the toughest of all. Current global pressures combined with the lingering effects of the COVID pandemic have seen input costs soar and consumer buying patterns change.

As you’ll read in this magazine, fertiliser prices have tripled, chemical price rises are not far behind and the rising cost of fuel is flowing on to higher freight and packaging prices. Workforce shortages also continue to take an exhausting toll on a large portion of growers, along with their support staff. It is easy as an organisation to listen to grower concerns and to collate the many issues affecting their profitability and livelihood. It is however far from easy to offer any solutions to the current crisis we face.

The two sides of the equation are supply and demand. In terms of supply, I encourage all growers to work closely with their agents / merchants on volume and quality issues. Keep in regular contact and supply only the lines that are required. In terms of demand, ABGC has ensured that Hort Innovation, who runs our Banana Marketing Program is aware of our unique set of challenges, so it can adjust its program efforts to focus on increasing demand.

These wheels are already in motion, with the new marketing program launched in January focussing heavily on increasing the rate of consumption. The ABGC is listening to growers’ concerns, but with so many external factors influencing the current threats to our viability, a solution to shore up our industry’s sustainability, is no quick fix.

NSW flooding

I’d like to finish by acknowledging the impacts that recent flooding has had on our growers in northern New South Wales and the mid north coast. Record rains affected some crops, however the more severe damage felt by growers was in the form of washed-out roads and causeways affecting their ability to access farms and get fruit to market.

The good news is that Government emergency funding grants offered to these growers was swift, with most growers commending the quick response.