CHANGE of guard

Stepping back from the role of president after eight years at the helm, it’s time to say thank you to those who supported me and leave members with my parting thoughts.
Words Damir (Dan) Kuzmicich, vegetablesWA outgoing president
GREETINGS to all our valued members, stakeholders and colleagues within the vegetable industry. The past year has presented us with significant challenges in the realm of growing. Persistent low market prices and reduced consumer demand have posed ongoing difficulties. While these issues aren’t unfamiliar to our industry, I must admit that this year has been exceptionally trying.
I’d like to take this opportunity to announce that this will be my final report for this magazine. I made the decision to step down from my role as president during the Annual General Meeting late last year, and I chose not to seek re-election. This decision was not made lightly, as the position of president comes with considerable pressure and time commitments. Looking back, I am immensely grateful for the support I received during my tenure.
“ Looking back, I am immensely grateful for the support I received during my tenure 
I want to express my sincere gratitude to all our stakeholders. I hope our collaboration continues to thrive, particularly through this magazine, which plays a vital role in keeping growers and the industry informed about our current status and offering valuable insights for decisionmaking. Throughout my journey, I’ve had the privilege of meeting numerous individuals at state and federal levels, including ministers, CEOs and staff members. They all contribute their best efforts while in their roles, but it’s the growers who remain the bedrock of our industry.
I’ve been fortunate to build enduring friendships and receive unwavering support to navigate the challenges of this industry. However, it has also brought its share of professional and personal hardships. Eight years in the role has taken its toll on me, professionally and personally. It’s time for me to start looking after myself and my family, and I am looking forward to having some time for myself and to pursue some activities I have always wanted to do.
I would like to congratulate Paul Shain on being voted in as the new president of vegetablesWA. Paul is a leader. He has been a grower in Carnarvon for decades and has been a great support on the Committee of Management. He has always put valuable content on the table to discuss to help growers. I wish Paul all the best in this role. He has the experience and the passion to make a positive impact for our members.
Growers across the state have found themselves compelled to re-evaluate their strategies to ensure their continued viability in this competitive field. The challenges we face have been a constant topic of discussion. High input costs, cumbersome regulatory requirements and compliance expenses are just a few of the issues we grapple with, and the weight of these challenges is stifling our industry.
It’s imperative that growers achieve some victories along the way, otherwise the industry as a whole will suffer. Transparency throughout the supply chain is essential to accurately reflect the true costs incurred by growers, which ultimately affect the end consumer. We must foster greater collaboration within the growing community, recognising that there is strength in unity. It’s essential to voice your opinions through industry peak bodies and actively engage with them. As the saying goes: “Growers can be their own worst enemy”. Growers must become more involved, or else those in power will continue to divide and conquer.
Some growers have had no alternative but to reduce their production to manage their costs effectively. While this adjustment isn’t necessarily detrimental, it underscores the need to align production with market demand. The market has been saturated for an extended period, with the concept of seasonal produce largely fading away.
In the past, growers had a specific window of opportunity with their seasonal products, promoting them as fresh and regionally sourced. However, today’s consumers prioritise affordability over origin. This shift is detrimental to our industry. Moving forward, effective promotion and marketing are critical for our growers, and these efforts should be coordinated at an industry level. It’s essential to share your unique story and actively engage in this process, as consumers are keen to hear about it directly from those who supply the product on their plate.
I strongly urge growers to understand and inform themselves about the Agricultural Produce Commission (APC) and the Vegetables Produce Commission (VPC). The APC is the national body that collects your valuable Fee for Service. Formally known as a state levy, this is collected through the market system. This is growers’ hard-earned money. It is distributed back through to industry via the VPC to a service provider (vegetablesWA) in the form of a contract. The growers’ federal levies, which are also paid through the market system, are distributed via Hort Innovation and the Federal Government matches the collection of those levies dollar for dollar.
The reason I am saying this is there seems to be confusion among some growers in how the system works. The more you understand this and inform yourself with the VPC reports, the more you will have a better understanding of the industry.
“ Moving forward, effective promotion and marketing are critical for our growers, and these efforts should be coordinated at an industry level 
Well, it’s time for me to sign off for the last time. I hope my content in these reports have provided some interesting reading over the past eight years. I wasn’t a writer when I took on this role; it has been something I have had to really work on and now enjoy. I have had valuable help in this and have found it the best way to be transparent with my thoughts to those I need to communicate with. I will continue writing on a personal level.
Farewell to everyone – stakeholders, members and industry. I wish everyone the very best for the future and stay safe.