By Growcom CEO David Thomson

Up until very recently “going viral” was seen as a good thing. As a phrase it was only ever used to describe online notoriety or an idea, image or meme successfully spreading through social media.

But now we’re confronted with the implications of a real and sometimes deadly virus, and the concept of going viral is suddenly not so cool.

As the Australian horticulture industry has watched infection control measures overseas and had time to digest the likely impacts of the coronavirus here, it appears we could be in for a challenging time.

While we’re not reliant on export trade like seafood and therefore not impacted immediately, our industry does rely on labour arriving from overseas to harvest our fresh fruits and vegetables.

Should the normal number of backpackers turn into a trickle, so too will an important pipeline of labour supply. How we will find more workers to fill any shortfall remains uncertain.

Concerns are also emerging around securing a supply of some important farm inputs manufactured overseas and commonly in China, including chemicals and packaging.

Less immediate than these issues is the potential effect on the logistics of the fresh produce supply chain if movement controls are put in place on people domestically to slow the spread of coronavirus as has been done overseas, most recently in Italy.

And if we have an increasing proportion of the population unwell, the last thing we want is less fresh fruits and vegetables available. These foods are our first and best medicines.

Both the Queensland and Australian governments are taking these issues seriously. As the likelihood of widespread infection in Australia increases, and domestic impacts become more real on industry and the community, each level of government has an important role to play. Government officials are already convening meetings and coordinating with Growcom and other peak bodies.

Right now, as individuals, one of the ways we can be best prepared is to boost our own immune system by eating a more varied diet, including the recommended five serves each day of fruits and vegetables.

And by happy coincidence you’ll be supporting the Queensland horticulture industry at the same time!

For more information on a healthy diet visit: www.eatforhealth.gov.au