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Welcome to pome harvest season 2023BY NARDIA STACY EXECUTIVE MANAGER, POMEWESTWhile Covid cast labour shortages and lockdowns over our industry in 2022, this year the future is looking ripe with optimism.
This time last year the country was still embroiled in the impact of the pandemic with impending labour shortages and lockdowns affecting our preparation for harvest. This year, however, it’s shaping up differently – generally, there is an optimistic view by most.
The growing season started with a wet and cold winter, followed by a damp and mild cool spring that extended into our summer months. This means we experienced a very cold and wet (light showers) pollination period, which caused late flowering and lighter crops throughout. However, many growers are semi-confident there’s a good year to come and, coupled with our quality testing program, consumers can look forward to eating some great fruit and, in turn, growers see some favourable returns.
This is in comparison to growers in some areas on the East Coast. Many there are still reeling from the impact of floods, then hail, in the later stages of 2022. However, we weren’t completely free from natural disasters ourselves. The recent fires in Donnybrook and surrounding towns did threaten some properties early this year and hail was recorded in late 2022. Both, however, are not predicted to have made much of an impact. We are glad that lives and homes were safe and that there was minimal impact to orchards – a lucky break that was helped by vigilant and well-prepared orchardists.
2023 maturity testing has commencedIt is timely that we again remind producers, wholesalers, market agents, produce buyers and fresh food retailers that the WA apple industry has begun its 2023 maturity for taste quality inspections. Gala, Granny Smith and Pink Lady are all under scrutiny for maturity levels for taste so the WA pome industry can continue to drive consumer taste satisfaction and consumption. As such, we have again committed a page in this section of the magazine as a public notice from the industry to advise of the program. Quality testing results will continue to be communicated via email to invested producers and stakeholders with details of passes and fails as they occur on a weekly basis.
Labour and attracting workersFrom all reports, there is a more transient labour force about in the regions. International backpackers, particularly from Europe, are returning to the holiday-maker program circuit. A positive that came out of the pandemic was that bigger growers are now fully engaged in seasonal worker programs, which has enhanced their business models and made room for the smaller growers to pick up other labour sources. Our take-out from Covid is that it has exposed a real need to promote horticulture as a career of significance, especially as it involves providing locally grown fresh food for the people. Pomewest will be working in collaboration with other horticultural industries and the WA State Government to ensure there is adequate promotion of the sector and providing appropriate skills-based training to encourage interest. Creating access to a careerfocused workforce and driving passion to the sector is essential for succession.
“ ... many growers are semiconfident there's a good year to come and, coupled with our quality testing program, consumers can look forward to eating some great fruit. ”APC/Pomewest Committee updateThe Agricultural Produce Commission (APC) has made some change-ofguard announcements. We welcome Monica Radomilijac (wine producer and industry identity from Pemberton) as Chair and Mark Sweetingham (former public sector employee) as our new Commissioner. Both were appointed by Minister for Agriculture and Food, Forestry and Small Business, the Hon. Jackie Jarvis MLC, in January.
This change marks a new era for the APC in both FFS collection and reporting and service to producers’ committees, which will be exciting for everyone. Other positive news is that the APC will be calling for projects from each of the producer committees in the first half of the financial year. If you have a project you wish to put forward, please contact me or our Project Manager Susie to assist in this process. This opportunity will also be communicated to you and our stakeholders via our communication platforms via E-News, social media and the Pomewest website, along with other news and updates throughout the year.
INTERNATIONAL backpackers, particularly from Europe, are returning to the holiday-maker program circuit.The Pomewest Committee meets four times a year and addresses timed annual-based criteria at each meeting: in February, we typically review financials, current projects and opportunities for project development; in May, we set and approve budgets; in August, we review the past financial year in conjunction with the Annual Pome Grower Dinner event; and in November, we review key performance indicators against the current strategic plan. If at any stage you, our growers, wish to have a say in how your fee for service money is spent or have any feedback, this is encouraged by contacting your local regional committee member.
Pome-focused eventsGrowers’ FFS dollars are being used to sponsor events to promote the industry in a value-adding and industry-building capacity to coincide with the season launch from March through to May. The first event on the calendar is the WA Apple Variety Innovation Conference (March 28–30).
Through this event we host national and international producers, marketers and stakeholders who will shine a light on the WA apple industry and our Manjimupbased national breeding program. The conference program is varied and celebrates wins in the commercialisation of the ANABP 01A variety for the WA industry. It also promotes opportunities, particularly for export. In turn, there is the potential for increased local production to future-proof the industry. Pomewest is a major sponsor of this event with the Fruit West Co-operative, DPIRD and WA Farm Direct.
We will also be involved in the Great Graze, which is held at the Cottesloe Civic Gardens on March 26, and will be at the Donnybrook Easter Festival Street event in Donnybrook on April 8. Both events support and promote regional growers and assist with new-season fruit promotion.
Pomewest is also proud to be the Gold Sponsor of the 2023 Australian Cider Conference to support processing fruit producers and value-adding activities. This event will be held in the Perth Hills on May 3–5. The conference theme is The Business of Cider. Keynote speaker Ryan Burke from the United States will join Australian and international experts to discuss the hows and whys of running a successful craft-cider business. Both Susie and I will be presenting to promote the activities Pomewest undertakes to demonstrate support and improved engagement with the sector.
Nationally, the event calendar includes: the APAL update in Melbourne and Hort Connections in Adelaide in the first half of the year, and the WA Horticulture Update (WAHU) in the second half of the year. At these events there are great opportunities for producers to learn about new technologies, innovations and initiatives in the pipeline, all designed to improve grower profitability and sustainability.
In this issueIn this section of the autumn issue of WA Grower, Susie has written a report on the February 2023 Future Orchard Walk. Held at Santa Rita Orchards on February 6, the walk focused on using block data to lead discussion on targets set for the season. Dario Stefanelli, of DPIRD, has also contributed to this issue with an article that supports findings of a co-funded project that uses innovative technology for apple orchard management, which is based on mapping and monitoring orchard growth using digital imagery.
I would like to finish by again inviting any grower or stakeholder to contact us if you need any assistance with any industry matters. And to remind you to visit our website pomewest.net.au and invite all FFS payers to visit and register for the grower zone for more detailed industry information. Both Susie and I are committed to our service roles for the pome industry and always welcome your engagement and feedback.