By Growcom CEO David Thomson
The export of agricultural produce represents one of the greatest opportunities for future growth within the Queensland economy. Where export markets for other agricultural products are relatively mature, the unrealised export opportunities for fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts in particular remain immense.
COVID-19 will continue for some time to cause enormous disruption to normal exporting operations, limiting growth and job creation.
The sudden loss of significant airfreight capacity has left growers of produce destined for export high and dry. Pre-COVID capacity is not expected to be regained for another three years. Practices for promoting our produce overseas are also reliant on international travel and have ground to a halt.
A critical trade-related issue across all of agriculture too often overlooked that is currently curtailing our export potential is the difficulty Queensland agricultural producers face in identifying, and confidently meeting, international export Maximum Residue Limits (MRL) requirements.
An MRL is the highest amount of an agricultural or veterinary chemical residue that is legally allowed in a food product sold in any country, whether it is produced domestically or imported. Each country is entitled to set its own MRLs based on both on how much of a chemical is needed to control pests or diseases, and safe levels of chemical exposure for consumers based on their typical national diet.
The result is an exceptionally challenging compliance environment that continues to change in response to new chemicals, different pest and disease threats, revised science and evolving diets.
For producers, not only must their chemical use hit a moving target in their overseas market, but also fit within their own longer term integrated pest and disease management strategies on farm.
There is a lot at stake for growers. Getting it right means improving their access overseas. Getting it wrong puts at risk their own reputation and that of Queensland and Australian growers for producing safe, clean and green fresh foods.
The fear of failing to meet chemical requirements currently acts as a barrier for growers to engage with expanding export market opportunities. A common tool to help growers hurdle this barrier is long overdue.
The absence of a tool that meets the needs of all users of agricultural chemicals has meant some horticulture commodities have struck out on their own to solve this problem for their own growers.
Unfortunately this piecemeal approach has led to stop gap solutions and a duplication of effort.
Growcom is advocating for a coordinated approach, for a tool that meets the needs of all fresh food producers, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, dairy, meat and more.
We believe this tool is best built into Infopest, the most trusted, accurate and up to date agriculture chemical database and search engine in Australia. Read more about Infopest here: www.infopest.com.au