By Growcom CEO Stephen Barnard
Looking forward over the year ahead, many growers can only see a further, unsustainable squeeze on margins.
The cost of inputs is skyrocketing.
Prices for fuel, fertiliser, chemicals, packaging and other products necessary for production, many of which are imported, are through the roof.
With a huge shortage of unskilled labour, affecting the whole economy and not just horticulture, labour costs are also well above average.
And the effect of the recent decision by the Fair Work Commission to put a floor in piecerates, turning a variable production input into a fixed cost, will only push labour costs higher.
At the same time, while there are exceptions, fresh produce prices in general remain stubbornly steady.
Something has got to give.
It is timely then that the Growcom team is currently consulting with industry on Future Fields, a new 10-year strategic plan for the Queensland fresh produce sector and supply chain.
At some of the regional workshops held to date, growers have identified an oversupply of produce as a challenge we need to address together. Certainly one legitimate response to the current squeeze on margins is planting less.
In response to the oversupply challenge, and many other challenges besides, it’s being recognised that as an industry and supply chain we need greater collaboration.
At the very least, we need to build a better and more current picture of production so that as an industry and individual business owners we can make decisions that maximise our return on investment.
Also being identified are opportunities to collaborate for the purpose of pushing down the price of inputs and pushing up the price of produce through collective bargaining.
The margins in the industry right now, together with a renewed spirit of collectivism that responding to a global pandemic has created, means there is appetite across horticulture for working more closely together.
One of the aims of Future Fields is to create the space and conditions to allow this collaborative work, across the supply chain, to flourish.
To find out more about Future Fields, and to have your say on the future of the industry, visit www.futurefields.info