Due to COVID-19, for the very first time the Passionfruit Australia AGM had to go virtual for 2020.
Thank you to those members who have navigated through the complexities of Zoom to join us today. Our inability to meet face to face truly reflects the very unusual times in which our industry has operated for the last eight months.
It was disappointing to have to cancel the extensive program of field days and regional grower gatherings that had been scheduled during this period. Your feedback to PAI in the past has highlighted the value our members obtain from the formal presentations and the informal exchanges of information that occur at these gatherings.
Travel restrictions also precluded your committee members from meeting in person. However, regular meetings of the committee were held via video and teleconferencing facilities. I would like to acknowledge the time and input from the members of the committee made up of Cynthia Barbagallo, Jane Richter, Brad Millard, Aidan Hutton, Ty Dan, Matt James and Jared Agostinelli. A special thanks to Amanda Roy, our Industry Services Manager, who ably managed our administrative and financial affairs during the crisis.
Jane Richter will not be nominating for a committee role this year as she has made the difficult decision to leave our industry. In her role as Vice President, Jane has been a great support to Amanda and the rest of the committee. She was our representative at the weekly Coronavirus Briefings (19 held to date) organised by Queensland Horticulture. Jane’s expertise will not be entirely lost to passionfruit growers as she will still deliver the current Communications Program until July 2021.
At our last AGM on the Sunshine Coast our then Chair, Tina McPherson, made reference to our newly prepared Strategic Plan. This plan was finalised after input from our membership and was a blueprint for the future of our industry. It was from this plan that PAI initiated a program to unite the industry to allow it to go forward consistent with its mission:
A united and confident passionfruit industry that is vibrant, innovative, profitable and sustainable.
Since the last AGM our industry was first challenged by severe draught conditions and now the restrictions imposed by various levels of government in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.
The underlying premise of our strategic plan is still relevant in the challenging environment in which we operate at the moment. The impacts of the pandemic have certainly focussed governments, and the population generally, on the need to secure reliable and adequate fresh food supplies for the nation. Whilst there have been constraints imposed on horticultural production this newfound awareness of the value of high quality, locally sourced produce provides an opportunity for all participants in our supply chain to capitalise on this opportunity.
Postharvest Best Practice Guide
All members of PAI have received a copy of the Postharvest Best Practice Guide. Today we also had the opportunity to hear from its author, Dr Jenny Ekman. This guide is an important tool for our industry to improve and maintain the quality of our fruit from the grower to the consumer and consistent with the aspirations in our mission above.
The initial breeding project undertaken by Southern Cross University ended on 30 June 2020. The continuation and timely success of this project is important to the profitability and sustainability of our industry. HIA is currently tendering a five-year extension of this project and has advised that it is in the very final stages of contracting. The scope of the new project has a very tight focus on delivering new varieties suitable for the major growing regions. The five-year timeframe will allow for significant advances to be planned and achieved. There will be strong continuity from the previous program as well as the injection of another highly experienced plant breeder.
The efforts of Peter Bundock and the team at SCU together with all of the growers who volunteered to plant and raise trial vines under the earlier program has been of great benefit towards the goal of successfully delivering new varieties that will sustain our industry into the future.
Full details of the new project will be shared in the Summer Edition of The Passion Vine.
The Communications Project is an important mechanism to unite and inform PAI’s membership. This project is funded directly from our levies and delivered by PAI through Jane Richter and Amanda Roy. This project delivers our key communications programs including the website, The Passion Vine, the newsletter and the field days.
The current project extends to July 2021 and options for the next program beyond that date are currently being explored.
PAI has been proactive in fostering skills development within our industry. Both directly and through sponsorships, a number of scholarships were awarded over the last twelve months:
- Wayne Dellaway from Glasshouse Mountains completed the five-day course on soil nutrition at NutriTech Solutions at Yandina on the Sunshine Coast;
- Ross Baker from Ayr is studying a distance education course on soil management sponsored by Samsons.
Following a resolution passed at the 2018 AGM, PAI has become a signatory to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed under a program managed by Plant Health Australia. As required under this deed, PAI is developing a Biosecurity Statement.
This deed nominates representatives from PAI for various roles and PHA provides training to assist the association representatives fulfil their responsibilities.
Horticulture Innovation Australia
PAI maintains a close working relationship with HIA particularly for our breeding, marketing and communications programs. For the last eight months our interaction with PAI has been limited to electronic communications. These constraints and the turnover of industry liaison staff within HIA have been less than optimal in getting the working relationship to where it needs to be. As restrictions are eased, we are hopeful that the partnership will develop in a fruitful manner to the benefit of our industry.
In closing, I would like to express our appreciation to everybody who has contributed to maintaining the health of our industry through the ups and downs of the last twelve months. With a return to more normal times we looked forward to reinvigorating our industry networking program and building on our digital communications initiatives that have held us together under lockdowns and other constraints.
It is important that our members maximise the use of the information exchanged through our various communication channels and proactively take the time to register your requirements with PAI and join in our exchanges of information. All growers are encouraged to look at the opportunity to contribute to the betterment of our industry by nominating for a committee role or contributing to our field day discussions and online forums.
Wishing our members the best for the next twelve months and hopefully we will have a chance to meet in person in the near future.