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Tasmania's vegetable growers recover from the very wet season

An industry scorecard shows the impact of huge rain events and seasonal conditions on Tasmania’s vegetable growers.

In 2015-2016, two big rain events and a dry spring led to a drop of 12.4 per cent in the value of the sector.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences show Tasmania accounted for 10 per cent of Australia’s 2300 vegetable-growing farms. Nationally vegetables made up 6 per cent of the gross $3.6 billion agricultural production.

ABARES figures show nationally the number of vegetable farms dropped by 37 per cent between 2006-2007 and 2015-2016, mostly in Queensland, Victoria and NSW, while Tasmania was stable.

The State Government’s Tasmanian Agri-Food scorecard 2015-2016 showed the the gross value of the vegetable industry in the North-West was $107 million, from 5285 hectares on 205 farm enterprises.

The North produced $87 million on 6256ha across 158 farms. In the South 32 farms on 841ha produced $23 million

Overall the state’s farmgate value was $217 million with a processed food value of almost $560 million.

Seasonal challenges caused a 12.4 per cent tumble in the value of vegetables because of a drop in production volumes.

Agricultural economist at the AgriGrowth department Mary Bennett said the seasonal conditions hit the values, but the industry did not shrink thanks to increased planting.

“The rain interfered with some vegetables, for example onions, and carrot yields increased. Carrot exports almost doubled to $6.7 million from $3.6 million the previous year because of more export markets opening up,” she said.

Onions remain the top international vegetable export worth $18 million, the main destination being Belgium.

Tasmania is a major producer of frozen vegetables. Of three plants, two process potato chips and the third mainly peas and beans.

Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association vegetable council chairman Nathan Richardson, a potato farmer at Thirlstane in the North-West, said certain areas of the industry were now growing.

He said there were increased volumes of vegetables to Simplot’s Ulverstone and Devonport plants and more potatoes going into Simplot Ulverstone and the McCains’ plant at Smithton.

“There is demand from processors and packers but that demand is not being reflected to growers.

“Producer costs are increasing with farmers challenged with water and electricity price increases.”

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