Archive for the ‘Queensland Country Life’ Category
Queensland citrus is now in stores and the growers have had a horror start to the season … and that’s putting it mildly.
Most QLD citrus is grown in the Gayndah, Mundubbera and Wallaville regions – and all three spots were hit hard by the Australia Day floods.
Orchards went under water but once the floodwaters subsided most growers have been able to clean up and move on.
I interviewed Greg Parr of Glengrove Orchards recently. He says most growers are forging ahead in the wake of the floods and are hoping for strong prices to help their recovery.
Customers can help the farmers get back on their feet by supporting local produce at the checkout. And if the price is a little higher than usual you’ll understand why.
Greg says the early lemon market had been stronger than usual – due to reduced supply – with returns of about $3/kg to farm.
He hopes the good prices will remain when local oranges and mandarins start hitting store shelves in the next two to three weeks.
Greg says while the Australia Day floods were devastating to farm infrastructure, the trees remains relatively unscathed.
“As far as the trees we didn’t have a huge amount of tree damage but we did have a significant amount of infrastructure damage … pumps, sheds, cold rooms, that sort of stuff,” he says.
“We have five farms between Mundubbera and Childers, some of them were only impacted slightly, others were really bad.”
It’s been a hectic 10 days here.
We left for the Gold Coast on the Friday ahead of Australia Day, ready to spend the last weekend of school holidays at the beach.
Our plan was for a lovely relaxing long weekend. The reality was something altogether different. But the loss of a long weekend was the least of our worries.
The cyclonic weather which hit Queensland that weekend has left a trail of destruction in its wake. I know trail of destruction is how the TV news always describes natural disasters. Until now I thought it was a little dramatic … a bit overstated.
Believe me, there’s no other way to describe the mess that the winds and the deluge of water has left behind.
On the Gold Coast we had a couple of very hairy nights, spent listening to high-speed wind gusting against our sliding glass doors. At times I was convinced the doors would ‘pop’. They didn’t and the worst we had to clean up was some water damage to power points and fallen palm fronds.
The heavy rains meant we couldn’t get home to the Scenic Rim, where creeks and dams were rising rapidly until the point they broke their banks and inundated farmers like this.
This footage was taken by Tracey Rieck, who is married to Michael, one of the younger vegetable farmers in our area. It shows the creek behind their farm breaking its banks and gushing through their farms. That’s the Kalfresh washing and packing factory in the background. Much of Mick and Tracey’s beautiful, nutrient-rich topsoil ended up on the Cunningham Highway.
Here they are driving down the muddy Highway after the water subsided.
The picture up Tarome Road, where many of Queensland’s vegetable crops are grown, was no better. Two bridges have been washed out and crops lost.
And here’s the mighty Kalfresh factory … water views anyone?
Farmers around this area were just getting back on their feet after the damage of the 2011 floods. Now they’re preparing to do it all over again.
They’re not alone. Up in Bundaberg, Mundubbera and Gayndah the picture is not pretty. One citrus grower told me the damage is five times worse than that incurred in 2011.
This is some of the damage incurred at Abbotsleigh Citrus in Wallaville. Those shade houses were covering the blueberry trees. The trees were washed away but by some miracle about 6000 have been recovered downstream, muddy but still intact.
Despite the enormous clean-up task ahead of them these growers are looking to the future and have a strong message for customers – Buy QLD produce!!!! They say by continuing to buy their produce, you’re helping them to fund their recovery.
A motivated family up in Wallaville, near Gin Gin, has created a website called Help QLD Farmers. The McMahons run Abbotsleigh Citrus. They have been badly impacted by the floods, which went through about 80 per cent of their orchard. The business is run by Michael McMahon and his sister Clare has a produce marketing business called Fresh Republic. Two days in to their clean-up they looked at the job ahead and realised they needed to get the message out to consumers that farmers needed their support. So they created the website. It shows many of the fresh food brands which are based in Queensland. Look out for them on your supermarket shelves and at the local butcher and fruit shop. If it’s a choice between imported food and locally-grown food, do your bit and choose the QLD-grown food. Listen to Clare talk about it here on Qld Country Hour.
Like the Help QLD Farmers Facebook Page.
And in the weeks and months to come if your fruit and vegetables are a little more expensive than normal, spare a thought for the farmers who are trying to pick up the pieces and take comfort in the knowledge that by supporting their products you’re helping them get back on their feet.
The past 10 years have seen a massive change in the way fruit and vegetables are traded. The majority of sales used to happen in the central markets. Buyers from large chain stores, right through to operators of smaller community fruit and vegetable shops, used to walk the markets in search of the best produce on offer that day.
But slowly more and more business has been happening outside of the market. The chain stores have been seeking ‘direct supply’ from large growers, essentially cutting out a stage of the supply chain, making their system more efficient, consistent and reliable.
It makes sense that such large customers would want to do this, but it has led many in the industry to wonder, ‘What’s the future of the central market system?’ I recently interviewed Andrew Young, the CEO of of the Brisbane Central Market. He says the future is bright and believes the markets produce trading system can co-exist with the direct supply model.
In fact he says growers now have a broader range of options for the sale of the produce than ever before.
Many agricultural businesses are folding. Big ones. Businesses which employ a lot of people and which support many ancillary businesses.
Some farmers are calling time before the banks do.
Last week I spoke to two farmers who have made the tough decision to call it a day. They grow – or used to grow – stonefruit. Peaches, apricots and plums to be exact.
The industry has been plagued by poor returns for a number of seasons now but still they persevered. But when the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) banned them from using two common industry chemicals to control Queensland fruit fly they decided they couldn’t continue.
They say without the chemicals fenthion and dimethoate, there is just too much risk of crop failure to continue. Now I’m not keen on the overuse of pesticides on my food but they make a valid argument for the use of pesticides in some cases.
Here’s what I wrote to Queensland Country Life recently.
Queensland pineapples are now available, but a large QLD grower says suppliers on the East Coast of Australia can’t compete with Thai imports.
Gavin Scurr of Pinata Farms says Thai imports are flooding into Western Australia to fill orders, previously supplied by Queensland producers.
He says Perth-based importers have identified the lucrative mining market and are importing containers of pineapples each week from Thailand to satisfy the requirements of mining companies.
“It used to be one container every now and then; Now it’s many containers each week,” says Scurr.
“It costs us $700/pallet to get pineapples to Perth but they can bring them in from Thailand for $80/pallet. Their cost of production is about one-third of ours and they ship straight into the mines. The miners don’t care where their fruit comes from.
“That’s 40 to 50 tonne of pineapples each week that’s not come from Australian growers.
“They’re only selling for a couple of dollars under the Australian pineapples so really the profits are being made by the importer, they are making massive margins because they’re paying Thai prices for the fruit.”
“It’s really something that’s popped up in the last six months.”
Mr Scurr says while Coles and Woolworths remained fiercely committed to supporting Australian growers and stocking local produce, growers will remain viable.
Do you buy Australian-grown produce when it’s available? Is price important to you?