BUSINESS OpinionIs it time to explore alternative markets?With a recent 20 per cent reduction in orders from large retailers, perhaps it’s time for growers to create new revenue streams.Words Manus Stockdale, vegetablesWA business and project development manager

THE horticulture industry has faced a significant challenge in recent months, with declining demand and falling prices impacting growers across the board. Large retailer chains have reduced their orders by about 20 per cent compared to the previous year, while top-up orders have also seen a significant reduction.This trend has led to excess production flooding the wholesale markets, resulting in a downward pressure on prices. To navigate this challenging landscape, growers must consider alternative markets that can provide higher profit margins and mitigate market risks.In light of declining domestic demand, growers need to look beyond traditional avenues and seek out new opportunities. Two potential alternatives include international export and interstate trade. By expanding their reach beyond local markets, growers can tap into consumer demand in different regions or even overseas. This diversification can help reduce dependence on a single market and create new revenue streams.Another avenue for growers to consider is pursuing higher margin sales opportunities. These may involve direct sales to food service establishments, independent retailers or even direct-to-consumer sales through initiatives such as home-delivered vegetable boxes. While these alternative markets require additional effort on the part of the growers, they can offer significantly higher profit margins. By establishing direct relationships with customers, growers can better control pricing and negotiate terms that better reflect the value of their produce.“ By establishing direct relationships... growers can better control pricing Alternative markets not only present opportunities for increased profitability, but also serve as a risk management strategy. By diversifying their customer base, growers can better protect themselves against challenges, such as oversupply, transport disruptions or sudden changes in consumer preferences. The question then arises: how can growers identify these alternative markets and find direct supply customers? The answer may lie in leveraging technological solutions like Direct2Farms, which is a new online platform developed by vegetablesWA with Maven Marketplaces.Direct2Farms is a mobile app that provides a platform for growers to connect with active buyers. Growers can explore new markets, expand their customer base and establish direct supply relationships, ultimately maximising their sales potential.As the hort industry grapples with declining demand and falling prices, growers must proactively seek out innovative ways to sustain their businesses.