The interests of Australia’s growing and diverse horticulture sector will now be directly represented through the National Farmers’ Federation, with the peak body launching a new Horticulture Council.
Victorian Farmers Federation, NSW Farmers, Growcom, the Voice of Horticulture and six commodity groups will be represented on the federation-led policy forum.
The commodity groups include the Australian Blueberry Growers' Association, AusVeg, Apple and Pear Australia Ltd, Dried Fruits Australia, Voice of Horticulture and Summerfruits Australia Limited.
Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said the move would help ensure horticulture had a stronger, more united voice in Canberra.
“This dedicated, united and tailored body representing the best interests of Australia’s $11 billion production and ornamental horticulture sectors, is essential if we are to continue to grow Australia’s horticulture industries into the future,” Mr Mahar said.
“The new Horticulture Council will build upon the existing work of the NFF as we continue to advocate for the best interests of all Australia’s farmers.”
Mr Mahar said recent free trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea meant international demand for Australia’s horticultural produce had never been greater.
“The world can’t get enough of our produce including our cherries, stone fruit and hazelnuts.
“In 2015, vegetables were Australia’s sixth biggest agricultural export by value, followed by fruit and nuts at number eight.”
However, Mr Mahar said with growth came additional policy considerations and industry challenges.
He said many of the policy issues impacting horticulture were the same as those in other agricultural industries such as trade and market access, biosecurity, infrastructure, workplace relations and digital technology adoption.
“The diversity of horticulture and the industry’s intensity means there are complexities that do not necessarily exist in broadacre or livestock farming businesses,” Mr Mahar said.
“For example, the high requirement for and reliance upon, seasonal workers is one such complexity.
“Failing to manage seasonal labour challenges would directly impact prices paid for our favourite fruits and vegetables – we have to get this right for farmers, farm workers, seasonal workers and consumers alike.”
Through the council, the federation will provide a more direct and deeper understanding of the issues of priority and draw on the collective knowledge of those represented when deciding on how to solve sectoral challenges.
Mr Mahar said he believed the council would also be welcomed by government.
“The NFF remains firmly of the view that there is real power in a unified approach.”
“Being able to join together to advocate as a united front will deliver real gains for the sector and for agriculture in general,” Mr Mahar said.
To form the council, organisations signed an official Memorandum of Understating agreeing that the forum was established to “strive for more efficient, effective, cohesive horticulture policy and advocacy that affects all Agriculture at the national level”.