Marketing and free trade agreements were among many topics discussed at the Vegetable Industry Partnership Night, at Lindenow on 7 July 2010.
Organised by local grower Andrew Bulmer, of Bulmer’s Farm Fresh Vegetables, the event attracted over 100 local growers, support businesses and local government representatives.
L-R Oscar Villalta (DPI), Darcy Boyd (EnviroVeg), Luis Gazzola (VGA), Slobodan Vujovic (IDO), Ian James (Industry Data Economic Analysis), host Andrew Bulmer (Bulmer’s Farm Fresh Vegetables) and Richard Mulcahy (AUSVEG CEO)
AUSVEG CEO Richard Mulcahy said AUSVEG was in very good shape and well placed to take up the concerns of the industry to all levels of government.
Mr Mulcahy said AUSVEG had developed 20 strategic partnerships with virtually every leading agribusiness company in Australia. These partnerships are allowing the organisation to advance in areas including increased R&D, Lobbying and Marketing. “Because we’re at the table, situations are arising and we’re getting our chance to put our view,” he said.
Mr Mulcahy said that AUSVEG had met with all major political parties, including the Greens, to ensure they were “front and centre with our views and concerns”
Bill Bulmer, of Bulmer’s Farm Fresh Vegetables, asked if Australian growers were “just a pawn in the game” given the tariffs on exports, no tariffs on imports, and that Australian regulatory standards were not met by the imported produce.
Mr Mulcahy said Mr Bulmer was “spot on”. He said that Australia was obsessed with the mining industry, but at the expense of horticulture. “It’s left the doors open for everything, including disease, to come in and the industry will be left to pick up the pieces.
Support through AUSVEG partnerships is making it possible to turn up the heat but there’s a lot of ground to make up.
L-R Trevor Kerton, Albert Pruscino and Sab Lanteri attended the vegetable industry partnership night in Lindenow
Vegetable industry economist Ian James discussed the direction the industry was headed and the opportunities available to growers.
Mr James listed imports, pricing, market access, water and labelling as key issues for the industry.
“If people are whinging about how expensive vegetables are, tell them they’re talking bull…. because vegetables are dirt cheap,” he said, adding that the increase in price over the past 20 years for vegetables was much less than most other food products.
“The key is in the marketing; how can we sell more vegetables at higher prices than what we do now.”
In terms of water, Mr James said the vegetable industry had some clout. “The $ return per megalitre of water is high compared to other primary industries. “Vegetable growers do well in terms of economic efficiency” he said.
Kim Martin asked what the major threats were in terms of imports, to which Mr James said that it was mainly the processed side of the industry.
Luis Gazzola, president of the Victorian Growers Association (VGA) identified stormwater harvesting as crucial to the survival of growers.
“Stormwater is our lifeline”
“Stormwater is our lifeline,” Mr Gazzola said, adding that allowing stormwater to run out to sea in high rainfall events was “stupid”
“We need to pressure governments to allow us to harvest stormwater when and if it’s there. I don’t want to take the environment’s water, rather take, maybe 10 per cent, when it’s there.”
Mr Gazzola said the industry needed to inform government decision makers of the vegetable industry’s worth to the economy and society.
“Farmers are the environmentalists of this country, they bust a gut to put fresh vegetables on the table every day and receive very little recognition. “We produce the health food of the nation…but we must market ourselves better.”
See Also : “Stormwater for Horticulture”
Elders Bairnsdale manager Colin Lane asked what work was being done on water security. Mr Gazzola said the VGA was working closely with the Victorian Farmers’ Federation and had been in a two-and-a-half year struggle with the Government to recognise issues of water security and stormwater harvesting.
Mr Gazzola said it was important for Government to recognise that winter allocations (June to October) were sometimes, periods of low rainfall, yet summer stormwater was left to go out to sea. “Our request is for producers to be able to harvest stormwater 12 months of the year”, when it is going past.”