Sunday, November 01, 2009

doing agribusiness in the shire

On Tuesday I went out on tour across the Shire with MPs of the Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into Sustainable Agribusiness in Outer East Melbourne. We spoke to an orchardist and a flower grower and heard about some of the difficulties they and their colleagues face farming in the current climate.

Here I am pictured with Colleen Hartland MP, Upper House member for Western Metropolitan. Colleen was keen to learn about some of the key issues affecting our farmers.

Number one concern was water, farmers frustrated that work on treatment plants would not see recycled water flow their way. Another key issue raised was the interface between rural practices and residential areas. Our farmers have seen residential houses grow up around them and find that many of their normal farming practices have to be modified to take account of the residential amenity.

The Parliamentary Committee took great interest in the key issues in Yarra Ranges. Here we are at Proteaflora where passionate General Manager, David Matthews, talked about his business, his vision for the industry and the benefits of being located in a key floriculture production region.

We heard of a case of a berry grower who cannot start picking fruit until 7am because of residential amenity, however it is much more advantageous to pick fruits early before the heat of the day.

Farm structures were another issue talked about, often producers of food, flowers and plants will use all manner of structures to protect their crops whether that be hail netting, igloos or glasshouses. This can be a source of tension when farms are close to housing.

Other issues included access to labour in peak season and the leaner times. Yarra Ranges is well placed to supply Melbourne with high quality fresh produce. Being only 50 kms away from the city gives us a great advantage and will put us in good stead when costs for freight increase.

The value of agricultural and horticultural production is estimated to be over $650 million and growing in the Shire. The major industries are nursery plants, viticulture and winemaking, floriculture, poultry and pig production, berries, orchard fruit, vegetables and beef production.

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