Grower body flags imported fruit, vegetable threat

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AUSTRALIAN farmers are well known for the high input, high return efficient farming techniques that are required to feed the world, and this is something that must continue to improve if we are to protect our food security, according to AusVeg National Marketing Manager, Simon Coburn.Mr Coburn says that the current influx of cheap imported fruit and vegetables is threatening the security of Australia’s food supply.“Australia should always be a net exporter of food and never a net importer, given that we have millions of hectares of arable land fit for the purpose of growing food, while the world in general is short of both arable land and food,” Mr Coburn said.“When cheaper-to-produce fresh fruit and vegetables are imported into this country and sold at the same prices as locally grown produce, retailers make more profit but both growers and consumers suffer. It puts undue pressure on growers by reducing their ability to compete in both the short and the long term. We need to invest in research to find ways to be more competitive to reduce the threat from these imports.”

Dow AgroSciences’ Horticulture Business Manager, John Gilmour agrees and says protecting the future of Australia’s food security rests firmly with the industry’s next generation.

Mr Gilmour says Dow AgroSciences has made a concerted effort to support Australia’s food production industry by investing heavily in the next generation of growers, researchers, agronomists and other industry advocates.

One of the most important ways in which Dow AgroSciences does this is by working closely with industry organisations such as AusVeg, the national peak industry body for vegetable and potato growers. Dow AgroSciences recently sponsored the AusVeg Young Grower of the Year Award, presented at the AusVeg National Convention in April this year.

“We are a key partner of AusVeg and, as part of that, sponsor the Young Grower of the Year Award. We also host a Young Growers event at the annual convention,” Mr Gilmour says.

“These young growers are literally the future of the industry. We believe it’s essential to promote and celebrate success amongst the generation that will lead the industry into the future.”

This year’s winner was Victorian vegetable farmer, Andrew Bulmer, who grows lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn and spinach for his family’s business, Bulmer Farm Fresh Vegetables.

He was nominated by his peers in the industry for his commercial acumen, innovation and high level of commitment to the industry, which he demonstrates both on-farm and off-farm. Commenting after the announcement, Mr Bulmer said that he was excited to have won the award.

“The Young Grower of the Year Award serves a vital purpose in helping young growers set the standard and inspire their peers to meet and exceed that standard,” said Mr Coburn.

“Dow AgroSciences’ support of this award for the second year shows they are committed to the next generation and to the industry as a whole. As organisations, we are both keen to see a focus on the development of future industry leaders and succession planning.”

Most importantly, Mr Coburn says, is that the awards provide the kind of recognition that is sorely lacking in the industry.

“It is crucial in the horticulture industry that achievements are recognised, as this does not happen enough. Without that recognition in such a tough industry we run the risk of losing our brightest stars,” said Mr Coburn.

“Winning such a prestigious award carries great weight in the industry.”

In February 2012 AusVeg will take young growers on a research trip to the United States where they will visit the Dow AgroSciences headquarters and research facility, which is about to undergo a $350 million extension.

Dow AgroSciences’ commitment to the future of the industry extends to include researchers and agronomists at all stages of their careers as well as growers. The company has recently extended its sponsorship of the Primary Industries Centre for Science Education (PICSE) program, which identifies and encourages talented high school students to pursue further education and science-based careers in primary industries.

When the PICSE graduates – and other agricultural science graduates – choose their careers, they will continue to be supported in the industry by Dow AgroSciences.

“As the Australian horticultural industry faces ongoing and increasing threats from cheap imports, investing in the industry becomes the civic duty of organisations like Dow AgroSciences,” said Mr Gilmour.

“We are investing in nothing less than the future and we’re approaching it from both sides. On the one hand we’re supporting the new crop of growers and, on the other hand, we’re creating a strong pipeline of potential Dow AgroSciences employees who will be the ones to formulate and produce the products that enable those growers to be successful.”


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