By Growcom CEO David Thomson

Our challenges, if they weren’t already, are beginning to get biblical in their proportions.

First came a crippling drought. Then the detection of fall armyworm. Now the impacts of the coronavirus are starting to fully reveal themselves. 

But then, as Premier Palaszczuk has rightly said, we’ve seen floods, cyclones and fires here in Queensland and have got through them all by coming together. 

And that’s what we’ll do again. There’s no other state you’d rather to be in than one so well practised at responding to adversity. 

As far as horticulture is concerned, our focus is currently at the Federal level, ensuring our industry has the labour it needs to continue feeding the nation.

We expect backpackers and other overseas workers who would otherwise be picking and packing our fruits and vegetables in three or six months time will be making the decision not to travel to Australia. 

While we might have a little time up our sleeve, growers and the public alike can take comfort knowing that securing labour, and our food supply, is already right at the very top of the priority list for all governments and industry groups.

Growcom is collaborating with fellow peak bodies and working with governments to provide accurate assessments of future labour demand and where this workforce would normally have been sourced. 

There are a range of options for filling any shortfall in labour and we are assured by the Australian Government that all of them are on the table. 

As always, our preference is to provide opportunities for Australians to get a start and succeed in our industry.

There are other obvious options too, like providing some additional flexibility for those already here and working to extend their stay.

Growcom is currently seeking confirmation from government on what exemptions might be made for the entire length of the food supply chain, including to farm level, where restrictions on movement are put in place across society or on a particular region. 

Coronavirus still has a way to run, but right now we’re ahead of it and, God willing, we stay that way.