Outlook sunny for Queensland agriculture
“Queensland producers are also leaders in forging frontiers into new markets, new ways of working, technology and the development and diversification of Agricultural land.”
Australian agricultural produce sells in a global market. It’s an industry that exports nearly 72 per cent of its $93 billion in produce globally making export relationships critical to success.
So, agricultural producers were rightfully nervous when diplomatic relations cooled with our biggest agricultural trading partner, China, after the pandemic.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Foresight is even better. And while some industries were impacted, the alarms were quickly silenced when there was realisation that due to the work government and industry had done during the prior decade around diversifying export markets for our produce, there would be no real slowdown in Australian commodity prices.
Notably, in the last decade, 10 of Australia’s 16 Free Trade Agreements have come into force.
On the home front, the strong commodity prices were despite increased supply – a result of improved efficiencies, use of technology, better farming practices, the introduction of high value rotational and permanent crops, progressive thinking and great weather – particularly in Queensland.
Queenslanders have worked hard and that is paying off in dividends.
As a major agricultural producer for Australia with over $23 billion- 24 per cent of Australia’s production annually - contributing $10.7 billion in agricultural exports, Queensland is central to the industry’s ongoing growth. Queensland producers are also leaders in forging frontiers into new markets, new ways of working, technology and the development and diversification of agricultural land.
At ANZ, we are seeing customers like Brad Bowen from Bowen Mangoes in the Burdekin region export into Korea, United States, Singapore, Middle East and Canada. And the group is now looking at a new relationship with India.
Just down the road in the Bowen Gumlu area, a group of stakeholders across industries including aquaculture, cane and mangoes, along with industry and government bodies, have come together to form the Agribusiness Future Alliance. The alliance co-operates with all stakeholders on common issues facing all sectors including workforce and training. More recently, the group have worked to align transient seasonal workers and seasons across multiple industries.
Tom Pontarelli of Pontarelli Group originally introduced watermelon as a rotational crop to the group’s cane operation and they now run a heavily tech-assisted enterprise supplying watermelon to major Australian markets.
In the far north and northwest of the state, we are seeing traditional grazing land transformed into cropping and cotton, driven by southern based customers who are taking advantage of Queensland’s plentiful and affordable water and high-quality soils. Go North young man! And woman!
So where does such a vital and vibrant industry focus in the next 10 years to continue their trajectory and further develop both businesses and the industry alike?
For me the answer is in its people. Perhaps one of the biggest concerns we hear from customers is the ability to find the right labour.
While groups like the Agribusiness Future Alliance are solving the problem locally, there is a wider industry movement that needs to continue around labour, careers, promoting transitional skill and building a brand as an employer of choice. With unemployment at a record low and every industry experiencing challenges with the workforce, maybe we need to emulate the vigour we see in creating diversified exports markets in creating careers.
The age-old idea you needed to grow up on a farm to understand the industry needs to be challenged. Doors need to be opened to workers and professionals of all different backgrounds and their experiences and diversity need to be welcomed with open arms.
The wonderful opportunity available to Queensland agriculture is a feature of ANZ’s latest in depth report, Queensland: Future State.
I recently had the chance to catch up with the executive management team of an organisation and their backgrounds amazed me – one was a fighter pilot, another speaks fluent Mandarin after living abroad, another sailed from Greece to Australia, untrained. Imagine what their life experiences bring to an industry they knew nothing about five years ago.
The opportunity is plentiful in Queensland agriculture and it’s an exciting time to be a part of it. The wealth of knowledge and willingness to drive change, take on the tough stuff and establish new opportunities in the sector is inspiring. That’s how I know Queensland can be the leaders for solving this one too.
Lisa Hewitt is Regional Executive at ANZ
Four generations of Queensland farmers feeding the nation