Building capacity in the value chain
Activity 2 of the High Value Horticulture Value Chains in the Queensland Murray Darling Basin (QMDB) project engaged local irrigators, including existing horticulture producers, to:
- find out about previous experiences in growing horticulture crops in the area
- identify the socioeconomic barriers to expansion and opportunities to overcome these barriers.
The following engagement activities were undertaken:
- a series of workshops and forums (cotton and grain) within the region to raise awareness of the project and gather feedback.
- engagement with existing horticulture producers to identify and overcome barriers to expansion and reasons for the success or failure of previous venture.
- identifiying current horticultural production in the region (crops, volumes and seasonality).
- identificatiying current supply chain logistics for existing horticultural crops.
- capacity building activities (e.g. agronomic, quality assurance, market specifications)—to meet the requirements of new markets.
- facilitating the development of new value chain requirements (e.g. processing, infrastructure).
Cotton is currently the dominant irrigated crop for the region, however there are some past and present examples of horticulture production for the region.
The St George area has a large existing horticulture component, with some permanent horticulture operations situated in the Inglewood area. Current horticulture crops grown in the study area include:
- table and wine grapes
- stone fruit
There are numerous examples of past horticulture operations across all areas.
Water availability and security
Water availability and security vary greatly across the study area and is a key influence for determining stakeholders’ capacity to grow perennial crops vs annuals.
In both the St George region and the Goondiwindi region, the further upstream the farm is located, the more secure the water tends to be. There are farmers who claim to have never had a zero water year where they couldn’t plant a crop, while farmers in other parts revert to dry-land crop options more regularly.
Horticulture presents a different set of challenges to the more traditional cropping methods currently practiced in the study area:
- The growing period can be more specific or market driven.
- Adverse weather can have a greater impact.
- Skilled labour may be required and hard to find.
- Existing logistics services may not be suitable.
- Post farm gate processing and marketing is generally required.
Market forces present the largest challenge by far - one that doesn’t have a clear solution or means of addressing. The overarching theme revealed through ongoing engagement is that farms need to know they have a market if considering horticulture.
For new commercial horticulture production ventures to succeed, more security needs to be incorporated into the value chain. Like water security, market security plays an integral part in the profitability of horticulture production. Market security would need to be defined for each sector, and this in turn would provide confidence to growers looking to enter or expand in the industry.