Booming markets sprout confidence and unity in $13b hort sector

Horticulture's booming markets sprout confidence and unity


Australia's most fragmented agricultural production sector has a unified goal to be reckoned with


With a Federal election campaign in full swing, any semblance of bipartisanship in Australia's political landscape has been dumped as parties and politicians battle to differentiate, to hold their margin or force a swing and claim the win on May 18.

Australia's agriculture landscape often struggles with its own version of bipartisanship.

But one sector is quietly uniting for the common good, overcoming internal differences and ultimately winning.

Ironically, it's the most fragmented agriculture sector of them all - horticulture.

Australia's horticulture sector is valued at about $13.2 billion a year.

It's up there with red meat and grain production, but unlike these highly defined industries, the horticulture banner covers 60 groups working across 100 commodities from mushrooms to mangoes, cut flowers to turf, avocados and almonds, berries, oranges and wine.

In the next decade tree nuts will grow to rival the wool industry in terms of value. - John Lloyd, Agribusiness Australia

It's an incredibly diverse group with gross value broken up evenly across the individual commodities.

So what's bringing this fragmented group together?

The simple fact is that horticulture has a lot going for it.

It's an important economic contributor to all parts of Australia.

Unlike any other commodity except perhaps beef, horticulture is present in all states, in tropical and temperate climates, and in urban, regional and rural areas.

It's a welcome, valuable addition to any town, often bringing capital expenditure spending and employment, either locals or backpackers, who simultaneously support the tourism industry.

No animal welfare issues here

Horticulture's product is good for our health, tapping easily into the demands of a health-conscious population.

It exists without any animal welfare issues.

It has a long history of support from a strong domestic market and a growing population willing to pay for the high cost of production.

Contrast this with two competitor countries - New Zealand and Chile - where the populations are either too small (NZ) or too poor (Chile) to support an attractive domestic market.

John Lloyd

John Lloyd

Yet, it's a young industry.

Most of the horticulture sector's 100 commodities are yet to reach maturity and for some that peak isn't even on the horizon as new export opportunities opening up and the world clamours for quality food.

Citrus, berries and table grapes are seeing this growth, while the tree nut industry is quickly heading to $1 billion.

In the next decade tree nuts will grow to rival the wool industry in terms of value.

Collaborative global focus

It's this quest for the export dollar that's driving collaboration, moving producers' attention away from the battle against each other for domestic supermarket shelf space, to a global stage where meeting market demand requires a combined approach.

Take the newly formed Fresh Produce Alliance, the first corporate peak body of its kind, where the top 12 horticulture producers have come together to drive value for the industry.

Imagine if the top 12 producers across beef, lamb, pork, chicken and fish all came together to promote their combined benefits, to stop battling over market share and viewing the world as a zero-sum game, where the benefit to one comes at the cost of another.

That's what's happening in horticulture, and the benefits are obvious.

Perhaps our politicians should check out what they are doing in horticulture.

It's not as nuts as it seems.

  • John Lloyd is a non-executive director of Agribusiness Australia and former chief executive of Horticulture Innovation Australia.

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