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From the Pomewest Executive Manager Season updateBY NARDIA STACY EXECUTIVE MANAGER, POMEWESTBy the time you get to read this report the 2021 harvest season will be done and dusted.By all accounts, we have managed to struggle through again this year — albeit at a higher cost associated with labour shortages, the impact of lockdowns, Qfly incursions and dealing with the usual culprits that challenge the business of orcharding.Getting through has taken a great deal of organisation and collaboration by you all, and the Western Australia (WA) horticultural industries at large.Now, we again have to look to the next season of pruning, thinning and harvest with similar concern.The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues across the world and recovery will be slow, despite the introduction of vaccinations. Sourcing backpackers in the conventional way, with international travel, will remain difficult until the virus is under control. This is why the Seasonal Worker Program must continue to source skilled workers from low-risk countries. Pomewest continues to work with the State Government to maintain this scheme, keep the flights coming, and strive to improve the process to be more cost effective and streamlined. We also will continue to explore ways to find other workforce alternatives moving forward.The good news is that the State Government does recognise that securing labour is essential for WA food security and it is firmly on the agenda.We would like to thank the Hon Minister Alannah MacTiernan MLA, and her office, for her personal commitment of assistance with this ongoing situation. We also thank DPIRD for continued funding of a Labour Scheme Facilitator, supported and housed by vegetablesWA to assist the hort industry.What else has been happening…Netting schemeThe perfect piece of fruit is always in high demand and the only effective way to truly achieve this is growing under netting. Pomewest were pleased that finally DPIRD advised the WA rollout of the National Horticultural Netting Infrastructure Scheme in early April, following the Federal Government’s announcement in December 2019. The WA pome industry welcomed this news, as many had been anticipating some funding assistance to upgrade their farms with protective cropping measures. Recognised as the future of orcharding, netting is an effective tool to increase efficiencies in production, by managing climatic events, water usage and pests. As cost of production is high in this country, matching returns of premium fruit are critical for our growing businesses to remain viable.Pomewest has remained an advocate for a fair and equitable approach to the allocation of funds and recognises that WA has only been granted a small amount in comparison to the other states. As such, it was always difficult to manage the distribution process as it was always likely to be oversubscribed. We therefore call for consideration for additional Government funding to continue this essential investment to create resilience and protect the industry.Committee businessThe committee have been busy looking at the objectives, strategies and tactics of the 2021–25 strategic plan and addressing the priorities established late last year. We are working on developing our own industry R&D plan to maximise orchard productivity and lower the cost of production. In addition, working with stakeholders and growers to develop return to export strategies, further engagement with DPIRD and the breeding program, and cultivating more productive relationships with APAL, Hort Innovation and DPIRD to leverage greater support for WA industry investment.This includes consideration of project proposals and setting budgets for 2021–22. Projects that are likely to continue to be supported include:1 Susie Murphy White’s role as Project Manager to facilitate various projects including Crop Estimation, Future Orchards, Biosecurity Liaison Officer, PIPS 3 Soil Health Field trial, APAL Tree Census Data collection.It is pleasing to report that this role is now being 40 per cent externally funded, by APAL, Hort Innovation and DPIRD thanks to our continued cultivation of valuable relationships.2 The introduction of a capacity building for business program will be announced shortly. Pomewest will be collaborating with other Hort sectors to assist growers to attain a clear understanding of the profit levers inside the cost structure of their businesses. Additional to produce a robust set of industry benchmarks which will bring clarity and certainty to decision making for future funding support. This project stands to gain a considerable amount of leverage funding to extend our investment. We hope our growers will take full advantage of this opportunity.3 Maturity Testing Program — this project will continue to maintain the success of the minimum standards, that been measured in wholesale and retail throughout the season of 2021.4 Promotions program lead by Fresh Finesse, including all events and social media, to promote produce to consumers and develop a clear value proposition for WA apple and pear varieties.There is still high support within the Committee to fund ongoing study tours to build industry development, particularly for the younger players, however due to travel restrictions with the pandemic this activity will be put on hold, at least until early 2022.The Committee have been proactively seeking and inviting interested parties to apply to sit on the Pome Committee, particularly from the next generation. This drive will continue so that we increase our capacity to engage more growers for additional ideas and concepts.This editionWe review the recent Export Readiness Event we held in late March. This was an opportunity to review future market development and encourage collaboration with supportive and interested businesses.Susie continues to report on on-farm biosecurity management by asking “do you know your exotic Pome fruit pests?”. This is part of her new role working as Horticulture Liaison Officer, in conjunction with Citrus and Stonefruit, to prepare the industry for any biosecurity threat. This project is funded by the APC and DPIRD, as well as Pome, Citrus and Stonefruit Producers’ Committees.We report on our recent promotional events to support the 2021 season, with insights and pathways to improve these activities in the future.State Government recognises that securing labour is essential for WA food security.I would like to take this opportunity to invite all our growers to contact me if you need any assistance with industry matters. I am committed to my role in the industry and welcome your calls or emails to discuss issues or provide feedback. Both Susie and I are working hard to maintain our service to you, via Pomewest, for return on your investment via the APC fee for service. Our committee and staff are always open to take on board any ideas on how we can improve our services to you, so please contact us with your suggestions.Finally, we congratulate your pursuit of excellence and integrity in these most demanding times of uncertainty, during the harvest season. The industry has again displayed its ability, resilience, and mental and physical toughness to push through this period admirably. With all the beautiful fruit in store as a result, I am sure the consumer is applauding you too!MORE INFORMATIONContact Nardia Stacy, Executive Manager, 0411 138 103 or email@example.com