National campaign aims to highlight the plight of horticultural growers and raise public support for the industry
Queensland Fruit & Vegetable Growers (QFVG) association has launched a national campaign to encourage open conversations around the pressing issues facing the sector.
The ‘we give a fork’ campaign will run throughout 2024 and draw on the real stories of individual growers and provide achievable actions, with the public encouraged to show they appreciate and support our horticultural industry.
QFVG chief executive Rachel Chambers said now is the time for people to demonstrate that they truly care about the future of fresh fruit, vegetable and nuts being grown in Australia.
“The challenges falling on our growers’ shoulders have never felt heavier,” Chambers said.
“Over the past 100 years, Australian growers have faced numerous floods, droughts, cyclones, hailstorms, and a pandemic. Yet right now things have never looked more challenging for their industry with the ongoing and cumulative impact of three years of rapidly rising input costs combined with what can only be described as an onslaught of poor policy making, meaning growers are at breaking point.”
With a recent survey by Ausveg, reporting over 30 per cent of Australia’s vegetable growers looking to exit the industry in the next 12 months, the campaign seeks to draw attention to the very real issues currently facing the entire sector.
Chambers said the campaign hopes to raise a spotlight and awareness around three key takeaways.
“The first one is that input costs have risen over the past three years, between 30-65 per cent. Nationally, the average is 37 per cent and productivity has decreased by up to one third. What business model can continue to sustain that?” she said.
“The second is that growers have been sustaining this business model by eating into their savings, eating into their capital, and eating into their superannuation. I’ve got growers saying there is nothing left.
“And thirdly, the policy pile-on in the past 18 months, including regulation and compliance changes in industrial relations, has dramatically changed how growers do business. There has been a raft of changes so rapid in succession that growers are struggling to keep up.”
QFVG is encouraging growers to come forward and share their stories to ensure the message is heard loud and clear.
Among the growers who will take part is Bundaberg grower Trevor Cross, who loves what he does but is finding it increasingly difficult to make a living.
“Farming is a passion that if you didn’t love doing it, you wouldn’t do it,” he said.
“All of our input costs have gone up. A lot of stuff is 30 to 40 per cent higher. Labour is running at about 50-60 per cent of our income.”
Judy Shepherd, a former Queensland grower, said a key issue that needs to be highlighted is that growers just want to be paid fairly for their work and what they produce, but not at the expense of the consumer.
“We want to continue growing Australian food, we grow the best food in the world, the safest food in the world,” she said. “This will only happen if it’s within or in a fair and balanced market.”
Chambers urged the public to get behind the campaign and show they give a fork about growers, the future of the industry and the value they contribute to our communities. She said the public can take part by actively participating in the #WeGiveAFork campaign across social media. They can also download a pre-drafted letter of to fill it out and send it to their local council or member of parliament to help drive action.
“As the peak body for fruit, vegetable, and nut growers for 100 years, we are determined to ensure growers are being heard. There must be change – our sector and the Australian public – who rely on their produce – depend on it,” Chambers said.