By Growcom CEO, David Thomson

Since the inception of Queensland’s horticulture industry, grower cooperatives have played an essential role in the development of our fruit, vegetable and nut industries. 

Growcom was established nearly a century ago as the Queensland Cooperative Fruitgrowers Ltd and has since grown to become the state’s peak body for horticulture, striving for long-term growth and profitability. 

Cooperatives and associations are a farmer’s bread and butter to organise and prioritise around issues, determine best farming practices, add value to their supply chains, engage in collective marketing and access markets both interstate and overseas they otherwise wouldn’t be able to alone. 

 Grower groups remain as relevant today as they were when Queensland horticulture was first finding its feet, particularly in cases where new markets require growers to collaborate.  

For example, only recently and following significant local interest, a new cooperative of organic ginger and turmeric growers has been proposed on the Atherton Tablelands. The long-term vision of this group is to establish a fully-fledged cooperative to tap into new markets in the lucrative health and wellness sector. 

Ahead of the Federal Election, Growcom welcomes bipartisan support for cooperatives from both sides of politics.  The Coalition’s Agriculture Competitiveness White Paper has outlined a $13.8 million commitment to provide farmers with knowledge and materials on cooperatives and Labor’s 2019 Election Platform includes reforms to give cooperatives better access to capital and government grants. 

At a state level, Queensland lags the rest of the country in implementing consistent regulation of cooperatives. The same or consistent legislation is in place in every state and territory, leaving our cooperatives at a disadvantage when it comes to doing business interstate. 

We encourage the Queensland Government to pursue aligning our legislation with the Cooperatives National Law (CNL), to reduce compliance costs for registered cooperatives and provide better access to external capital funding.