By Growcom CEO Rachel Chambers
2022 is the year that will most likely be remembered for one previously unassuming salad vegetable. A lettuce priced at ten bucks was just the tip of the iceberg for growers who faced repeated, devasting flooding in our usually vibrant horticulture food bowls in northern, central and southern Queensland.
The extent of flooding this year had not been seen at such scale since devastating flooding in 2011. However, this year unseasonable rain saw growers in the multiple regions affected by inundation as many as four times.
Whilst inflated lettuce prices lent barbed comedy relief, at the very least it brought about consumer awareness of supply verses demand along with the many complexities of getting fresh produce not only to market, but also to our favourite cafés, restaurants and supermarkets. Who knew cabbage could pass as lettuce on a burger?
On the labour scene (obviously not to be confused with the change in government in May), enduring shortages in the workforce from a colossal COVID hangover meant that although last year was a disaster, this year remained a serious and enduring challenge for growers.
Losing the Ag Visa was a blow to the sector and although the government seems to have put all their eggs in one PALM basket, Growcom has repeatedly advocated that the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme is only one small piece of a very complex labour shortage puzzle.
Labour of course can’t eventuate without a place for workers to live and as such accommodation shortages went hand in hand with acquiring and maintaining a workforce.
It was also a year that we were reminded that we play in a very large and complex global market. Fuel, fertiliser and market access all have played a strong role in our profitability (or lack thereof).
As a vibrant, resilient and hugely competent industry however, we take the losses on the chin, dust ourselves off and get on with it. And it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Many growers soldiered on despite of any obstacle thrown their way to have good seasons.
Make no mistake, horticulture is as strong, resilient, and passionate as ever!
On a final note, 2023 will be an especially exciting one for Growcom as it marks 100 years of Growcom and its predecessor organisations. The next twelve months looks like an exciting mix of opportunity and challenges. The sector will unite with those who rely on it, to both capitalise on, and overcome anything thrown at it into the future.