A Queensland farmer now exports most of his melons to Japan to avoid dealing with Coles and Woolworths. Shaun Jackson of Daintree Fresh in far north Queensland’s Lakeland, fears that Australians will face a looming crisis as growers across the nation will exit the industry in coming years, predicting shortages and steep price increases. A survey published in July by peak body AUSVEG found 34 per cent of vegetable growers were considering leaving the industry in the next twelve months.
Jackson said: “It’s going to become super expensive. There’s no one following [in the industry]. Apart from that 30 per cent that want to leave, ask how many have got their sons or kids coming through. And why would you? I start at five in the morning and finish at seven or eight at night. I’ve worked seven days a week for the last four months.”
Rachel Chambers, chief executive of Queensland Fruit & Vegetable Growers (QFVG): “Right now I can genuinely say to you there are people looking to exit the industry that have been farming for generations. ... Unless something changes, the fresh produce industry in Australia is at immense risk.”
Jackson added that ‘the real issue is the supermarkets’: “The cost to return [for growers] is ridiculous. I have to lay plastic, I have to culture my ground with expensive tractors, use fuel. I buy $300,000 worth of seed, three months later I start picking. By that stage I’ve spent $1 million, then 30 days after they get my fruit they start to pay.”
That’s why Jackson said he no longer dealt with the supermarkets: “I starting growing a few specialty melons and sent them over to Japan, they loved them. We went from 50,000 boxes to 150,000. This year we’re going to do 250,000 boxes to Japan. Eighty per cent of my products are now going to Japan.”