By Growcom CEO Rachel Chambers
Great things are happening in the North of our great State, and from all the talk at the FNQ Growers Field Day held in Mareeba last week, even greater things are just around the corner.
Listening to a grower forum of Mangoes, Avocados, Bananas, Lychees, Papaya, and Cotton not to mention investors, one couldn’t help respecting the powerhouse of produce grown in this region.
It wasn’t only the willingness to share positive stories which impressed this newly inducted advocate of hort, it was also the attendee’s willingness to share challenges in the hope of helping each other’s farms and industries. These growers had some real conversations. One such conversation involved a question as to whether industries should be regulated to stop oversupply. Quickly this was answered with a reminder that growers are indeed regulated, by profitability, and that the next few years would certainly see some growers struggle to stay in the game.
The challenges in the Far North are no different to what we hear from the rest of the state. Biosecurity, inputs costs, labour and unstable retail markets were all front and centre of discussions along with water and connectivity. One grower spoke of how they’ve used technology to save 25-30% of their water costs and then went on to make a plea to growers to start to use technology as a tool to get their farming knowledge out of their head, in order to leave a legacy of information for future generations.
As I make my way around the State it has not yet ceased to astound me how hard it is to get people to work on farm. It’s seriously hard. Many spoke about the good ole days of seasonal workers and the need to look at an Ag visa alternative given many potential workers would rather pour a beer than pick a piece of fruit.
Export markets were also a topic of the day as many are looking further afield now the domestic market is feeling a little overwhelmed. For growers in this region the ability to export has been made that much better by the investment into the agricultural distribution hub at Cairns airport.
With the Far North already leveraging a very successful tourism brand, investors spoke of the unique opportunity which exists for FNQ growers to internationally brand their produce in a similar way. Capitalising on this Far North niche, doesn’t seem too far off.