By Ian Atkinson – CEO, Nursery & Garden Industry Queensland
Here in southern Queensland, this year has meant rain, more rain, and a large dash of flooding and earlier this year we experienced some extraordinary flooding events. We estimate about thirty businesses were impacted by flooding on their sites, about half of those quite badly. Some growers on the Logan River floodplain had over 2m of water across their sites. Virtually everyone in South East Queensland suffered from road closures and other weather interruptions. Staff couldn’t get to work, supplies such as growing media couldn’t get in and freight of product was severely impacted, including freight heading south to the NSW and Victorian markets. In the meantime, the local population didn’t feel like doing much gardening and major landscape projects were just a quagmire. However, as I write this it is cool but beautifully sunny weather, so it bodes well for visitors coming up to our Green Expo event on July 26 & 27 at the Gold Coast Turf Club and Event Centre. This is a new and better venue than previous years, right next to the racetrack with a glorious view of the skyline. Stands have now sold out so we anticipate an exciting event with lots to see and of course great weather. https://www.ngiq.asn.au/events-courses/green-expo/
The Queensland nursery industry has certainly benefited from an increase in spending during the COVID19 lockdowns and it seems we have maintained much of the change in buying habits. For some decades, our main competitors for the discretionary spend have been eating out, gambling, and overseas travel, so it’s obvious why this changed during the pre-vaccine period of COVID19. Effective lobbying at both the state and federal level, meant garden centres were open during most of this time as we were recognised for our contribution to mental health and home food production.
Nursery production is now one of the largest agricultural industries in Queensland, according to the Queensland government’s farm gate valuation. Horticulture is a major contributor to Queensland’s rural and regional communities, with the state growing the majority of Australia’s banana, pineapple, mango, mandarin, avocado, and fresh tomato crops. The latest figures for Queensland horticulture show a forecast Gross Value of Production (GVP) for 2021-22 of $4.28 billion, covering fruit and nuts, vegetables, and lifestyle horticulture. The top-performing horticulture commodities in Queensland are nursery production, valued at $1.064 billion, followed by bananas ($551million), avocados ($243 million), tomatoes ($275 million), mandarins ($151 million), macadamias ($141 million), strawberries ($141 million), capsicums and chillies ($129 million). https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/strategic-direction/datafarm/horticulture-data
However, like all sectors of the Australian economy, we are suffering from COVID19 disruptions in the workforce and supply chain. In February for instance, across Australia “The number of employed people working no hours over the entire week due to illness or sick leave was around 80 per cent higher than what we would usually see in February, having been around triple the usual level in January.” https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-17/unemployment-falls-to-4pc-as-hours-worked-recover-from-omicron/100917296 In the Queensland nursery industry, we are seeing this impacting all sectors, including growers, retailers and allied trades. The industry is remarkably resilient, the mood is upbeat and green-life is looking magnificent, so let’s not dwell on the negative. Hope to see many of you at Green Expo in July.