Blackberries & Raspberries

Berries Australia: Govt must do more to address labour shortage

Industry body Berries Australia has welcomed the extension of the skilled visa program but says the government needs to go further to address the underlying farm labor shortage.

The change involves moving most agricultural occupations from the short-term list to the regional occupations list which makes visa holders eligible for a four-year visa, double the current term.

Executive director of Berries Australia, Rachel Mackenzie, said that growers in many regions welcomed this decision as the two year turn over for their more senior staff resulted in significant disruption to their businesses.

“However. the government decision only covers skilled occupations and not unskilled labour such as fruit-picking. A new Agriculture Visa or improved Pacific Seasonal Workers program would address farm labour shortages by allowing farmers to hire a dedicated overseas
workforce on a temporary basis,” said Mackenzie.

The US$1.4 billion berry category is now the single largest fresh produce category in Australia and consumption is increasing across the county. To continue to grow, the berry industry needs access to reliable workers and this announcement will go some way toward meeting
these needs.

“Berries Australia is committed to ensuring that growers can access an effective workforce to meet their needs, as part of that we are keen to look at ways to increase the number of Australians employed on farm,” Mackenzie said.

“It may seem counter-intuitive but being able to access the skills we need from overseas means that berry businesses can be more profitable and in turn, employ more locals.”


Australia launches 10-year berry export plan amid soaring growth

Australia’s Hort Innovation has launched the Berry Export Strategy 2028 for the strawberry, raspberry and blackberry industries following huge international growth over recent years.

The dedicated export plan to grow the three sectors’ global presence over the next decade was driven by significant grower input, the organization said.

Hort Innovation trade manager Jenny Van de Meeberg said the value and volume of raspberry and blackberry exports rose by 100 percent between 2016 and 2017.

Strawberry exports rose 30 percent in volume and 26 percent in value over the same period.

“Australian berry sectors are in a firm position at the moment,” she said.

“Production, adoption of protected substrate cropping, improved genetics and an expanding geographic footprint have all helped put Aussie berries on a positive trajectory.

“We are seeing a real transition point. Broad industry interest and a strong commercial appetite for export market development combined with the potential to capitalise on existing trade agreements and build new trade partnerships has created this perfect environment for growth.”

High-income countries in Europe, North America and northern Asia have been identified as having a palate for Australian-grown berries, with more than 4,244 metric tons (MT) of fresh berries exported in the last financial year alone.

The strategy identified the best short-term prospect markets for the Australian blackberry and raspberry industry as Hong Kong, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Canada.

The strongest short-term trade options identified for the strawberry sector were Thailand, Malaysia, New Zealand and Macau.

The strategy focuses heavily on growing the existing strawberry export market from 4 percent to at least 8 percent of national production by volume. For raspberries and blackberries, the sectors aim to achieve a 5 percent boost in exports assessed by volume across identified markets by 2021.

Tasmanian raspberry exporter Nic Hansen said: “The more options we have for export the better. Now we just have to get on with the job of ensuring industry has all the tools it needs, such as supporting data and relationship building opportunities, to thrive in new markets.”



Costa Group recognized for efforts in China

Costa Group has been announced as a finalist in the prestigious 25th Annual AustCham Westpac Australia-China Business Awards.

Nominated for the Business Excellence Award for Agriculture, Food & Beverage, Costa has been recognised for its operations in China with its focus on the development of large scale berry fruit (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) farms in Honghe and Xishuangbanna Yunnan Province.

Costa’s investment to date represents one of the largest by a foreign owned company in Chinese agriculture in recent years with land secured for further expansion as demand in the market grows.

Costa was nominated for the award due to the success of its agricultural developments in China based on a number of key factors including:
The introduction of high tech growing and management systems
Recognition of key national agricultural policies focusing on sustainable production and improvement in the economic and social well-being of the local population
A strong and harmonious working relationship with local authorities
Implementation of safe and healthy work practices

Paul Lai, Westpac’s Regional Head and Head of Corporate & Institutional Banking Greater China said, “Given its size and incredible pace of transformation, it’s fantastic to see these Australian businesses that have worked hard to get their China strategy right, reaping the rewards and propelling their business forward.”

The presentation of the 25th Annual AustCham Westpac Australia-China Business Awards is to be made at a Gala Dinner in Shanghai on Thursday 17th May.

For more information:
Costa Group
Business Support Centre
275 Robinsons Road, Ravenhall
VIC 3023
T: 03 8363 9000

Publication date: 4/23/2018



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Australian berry industry preparing to host biggest ever conference

The Australian berry industry is preparing to welcome representatives from around the world, as it strengthens its export growth and potential.

Raspberries and Blackberries Australia (RABA) Executive Officer Jonathan Eccles says the global element to February’s BerryQuest International 2018, goes beyond just having speakers and guests from overseas across the four major berry categories; strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.

"The berry industry has grown in the past 10 years to the point where we have interest from local growers in exporting and the keen interest from overseas markets," Mr Eccles said. "So that's where the theme for the conference comes from. We've got over 35 exhibitors and so far our attendance is reaching 320, which makes it the biggest berry conference ever held in Australia."

Representatives will travel from the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, New Zealand, Korea, and China, and with the berry season in full swing, there will be plenty of in-season berries for attendees to enjoy. However, Mr Eccles admits that it has been a tough season for raspberry and blackberry growers during summer.

"The summer season, which starts in November, started off pretty well then we got this horrendous hot weather," he said. "It was surprising how humid it was and that caused problems itself. There were also some very hot days of 40 degrees, which slows down the productivity of the plants. It doesn't seem to be over yet with the heat still hitting us this week."

It is not just the heat that has affected the berries, with diseases such as grey mould. Bugs such as myriads have been damaging fruit while trying to seek shelter from the heat in the crops. They also become contaminants in the punnets.

But the RABA Executive Officer says that the effects felt by these incidents are balanced out by an increase in production across the board.

"What we have seen is a slight reduction in the first grade quality fruit," Mr Eccles said. "Because the fruit comes on so quickly, if we get a few cool days, it bounces back fairly quickly. So it is not like we have any long term impact from those few hot days. Overall growers have kept up with quality due to the increase in production from previous years. Most crops are now grown undercover which helps protect from rain and thunderstorms."

Demand for raspberries and blackberries from Australian consumers continues to grow according to Mr Eccles. Blackberries in particular are undersupplied but new varieties will help to meet consumer demand.

"More consumers are seeing blackberries appear in the stores in areas where once they were never seen," he said "Consumers are always looking for something new. Consumer demand has been helped with raspberries now being seen on the shelves all year round - we have nearly 12 months of production, with the northern areas coming in in winter that complements the main summer period further south. The other thing driving demand is supermarkets putting raspberries and blackberries at the front of the produce store. There is also the health benefits and versatility of the berries as well".

BerryQuest International 2018 will be held at the Country Club Tasmania in Launceston from 12-15 February. For more information: 

Jonathan Eccles
Raspberries and Blackberries Australia
Phone: +61 407 242 757

Publication date: 1/31/2018
Author: Matthew Russell

BerryQuest conference set for Tasmania in early 2018

Three peak industry bodies representing Australian berry producers are working together once again to roll out a highly anticipated conference of industry experts from across the country and abroad.

Strawberries Australia, Australian Blueberry Growers Association and Raspberries and Blackberries Australia will proudly host BerryQuest International 2018 at the Country Club Launceston from Feb. 12-15.

The event will bring together berry growers, industry related businesses and researchers from around Australia and the world for three days of conference activity.

Conference highlights will include:

A broad range of topics covered in plenary and breakout sessions which will provide growers with the latest information to help further develop both farming and business practices.
Many of the topics have been selected by a panel of growers who have focussed on the issues that will be pertinent to the berry industry as it expands over the next 5 to 10 years.
A number of conference speakers will be farmers, with berry growers from across the country willing to share their experience in a range of topics.
A large trade exhibition with 28+ booths will also be open for two and a half days of the conference.
BerryQuest International 2018 will expose delegates to the latest innovations across a wide range of areas including innovation in growing techniques, research, pest and disease management, breeding, export development, labour, marketing and retailer/consumer trends.

Simon Dornauf, conference committee chair for BerryQuest International 2018 says that the conference will also provide excellent business opportunities between growers, their allied trade and interested parties.

“The opportunities to share information and network presented by the Conference are extraordinary. Berry producers will be able to speak to and hear from suppliers about the latest innovations and technology at the dedicated Trade Exhibition, and the social events being held are where much of the ‘real business’ is done”.

Launceston has been selected as the host city due to its close proximity to berry growing areas where strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries will all be in season. Attendees will have the opportunity to see production first hand by participating in one of the organised farm tours on the final day of the conference.

With a combined value of around AUD$850 million dollars per annum, the Australia Berry Industry has now become one of the largest sectors within horticulture. It is estimated that more than 20,000 people are employed directly in the berry industry, with most of the industries expanding each year.

Registration to attend is now open and sponsorship/ exhibitor opportunities are still available. Visit for more information.