Opinion – If cafes, restaurants have clarity, growers do too

What has been made abundantly clear during the COVID-19 pandemic is the essential nature of the agriculture industry — particularly those who supply fresh vegetables.

Australia’s vegetable industry has been central to ensuring the health and safety of the Australian public.

Our industry worked hard with the agriculture supply chain to keep fresh produce available to consumers, it has kept workers in jobs and has ensured supply continues despite the challenging health and safety guidelines that have been introduced, all while attempting to keep up with consumer demands in the market place.

Many businesses have been devastated by the restrictions put in place due to COVID-19, particularly due to the disruption of the hospitality and food service sectors.

Australian vegetable growers send just over $1 billion worth of produce to the food services sector each year and vegetable growing businesses that service this sector have effectively had those taps turned off.

It has meant some growers, especially those who grow highly perishable crops, are left with the tough choice of whether or not to harvest their produce, and whether or not to plant the next crop.

Without a viable avenue to sell their fresh produce to consumers, businesses could be forced to shut their gates, meaning workers will lose their livelihoods.

The food service sector needs the support of government to get through this troubling time. Government must give restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars a clear indication that, if they comply with the required health and safety guidelines, they will be able to increase their trade.

Vegetable growers who service those markets need confidence that if they start planting perishable crops now they will have an avenue to market when the crop is ready to harvest.

Not having a clear plan to open the food service sector means growers will plant less.

We urge Australians to lift their consumption of fresh Australian produce so growers can continue doing what they do best — growing high-quality, healthy and nutritious food for Australian families.

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