By QFVG CEO Rachel Chambers

This week our Head of Engagement and Advocacy, Angela, one of our Growcom staff members, Brock and myself, spent a day in the Granite Belt. 

We met with financial managers, HR managers, innovators, inventors, scientists, investors, property owners and agronomists. Well, we actually met with some of our amazing growers, who are all those things and more and boy did we learn a lot! 

The real privilege which comes with this job is getting to know our growers and their agribusinesses. 

Meeting growers across the length and breadth of Queensland shows us just how many geographic nuances are involved in horticulture. What works in one region may not work in another, even with the same commodity.

Regardless of the product grown, how or where, there are common topics we keep hearing. 

Growers are trying hard to lower costs of production. We heard stories of innovations creating efficiencies, and sometimes heartache when it didn’t go well. Growers have always been innovators, the ability to problem solve is part of their DNA. What we are starting to piece together however, is growers have been on this maximising efficiency journey for years now and are running out of ideas and options to do so. They think about it all the time.

Growers need to make a profit. We hear repeatedly how the grower must focus on input costs given they are not in control of the end price. Those in the game know consumers are paying a lot more than what growers are being paid, so a question we get asked by growers is, “Who in the supply chain is making the money?”

The biggest issue for growers is the one of removal of Employment Agreements and the impacts of the 38-hour week ruling. Given labour is currently around 60% of all input costs, the ludicrous statement before Christmas by of one of the duopolies urging suppliers to ‘turn its mind’ to reducing costs had to be one of the most condescending statements in history.

Input prices of fuel, fertiliser, compliance costs, energy, water and now labour, which of these do the growers control? From what we’ve experienced first-hand, growers have continuously reviewed their operations to maximise profitability, and found themselves still short. Short and out of answers. But they’re only just getting started with their questions.

One grower when asked about his approach to solving problems and creating opportunities said, “Don’t leave anything alone that you can’t explain.”

As the peak body, we can’t explain to our growers why their agribusinesses shouldn’t be profitable. So we won’t be leaving that alone either.