By Growcom CEO David Thomson

Market access for our agricultural produce has been front and centre lately.

Making headlines have been the manoeuvrings of China with regards to barley and beef.

In less public forums, conversations between government and industry about recovering the economy, and agriculture in particular, have highlighted that gaining greater market access overseas remains a key strategy for driving growth and profitability.

And it’s true, particularly for horticulture, that there remains enormous untapped potential for our produce in overseas markets.

But as the old saying goes, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, which is wisdom that readily applies to our efforts on markets and trade negotiation.

Since the end of the last winter season in Queensland the export of cucumbers, zucchinis, pumpkins, melons and other crops belonging to the cucurbit family has been up in the air.

First came a detection by New Zealand authorities of the Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic Virus that affects all cucurbits.  Negotiations about an acceptable protocol that would allow trade to recommence have been ongoing ever since, meaning that the window for accessing the New Zealand market is rapidly closing this year and is at risk of being missed entirely.

The total value of New Zealand markets across all cucurbits produced in Queensland is approximately $30 million annually.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adhern met recently with Australia’s National Cabinet. We’re told creating a protocol to enable travel between our two countries was at the top of the agenda. No doubt the fate of the upcoming New Zealand ski season, and the New Zealand economy more generally, was front of Prime Minister Adhern’s mind.

The recovery of individual national economies is going to require trading partners to be pulling in the same direction. This is doubly important where those partners are such an important part of our overall trade, like New Zealand and China.

Growcom, as the peak body for Queensland horticulture, hopes the energy and goodwill behind creating protocol for human travel is matched by efforts to finalise a protocol for the trade of cucurbits.