AUSTRALIA'S horticultural industry faces enormous challenges in the future, writes ANDREW BROAD
The next 10 years will see significant changes within the Australian horticultural industry.
Many farming businesses have built equity and profitability over a lifetime of hard work.
The men and women who work so hard to provide Australia's fresh fruit and vegetables must be looking on with exasperation as one of the major supermarkets brags about the deflation in Australian food prices.
Last week, Coles merchandise director John Durkan was reported as saying: "I can only see prices going in one direction, and that is down."
Ask anyone involved in farming and they will point out that they can only see business costs going in one direction, and that is up.
Australian horticulture farmers pay more for wages than any of their global competitors and labour costs are fast eroding our processing capacity.
Given that expanding export market access takes a long time and export opportunities are less competitive with the Australian dollar trading about US105c, the challenges for Australia's horticulture industry are enormous.
"Down down" supermarket campaigns, high labour costs and tough terms of trade risk significant decline in the Australian horticultural industry.
Sure, Australians deserve affordable, quality fresh food, but not cheap food at the expense of farmers.
Consider swapping that block of chocolate for some fresh, Australian-grown apples.
Your grocery bill will drop and you'll probably live longer, too.
It's often the junk food that makes the weekly grocery bill higher than it should be. And while you're at it, look for the Australian grown logo.
Many are justifiably concerned about the amount of foreign ownership in Australia.
There is no doubt from an economic argument that it is far better to be the owner than the worker.
However, if our government and individual consumers fail to address the fiscal, policy and attitudes that are robbing our horticultural industries of profitability, then our fruit and vegetable farms will continue to be bought by countries who value quality food.
- Andrew Broad is an Australian Made Australian Grown director and former president of the Victorian Farmers Federation