Australian vegetable industry preparing to renew its Strategic Investment Plan for the next five years

As the vegetable industry looks to renew its Strategic Investment Plan (SIP), Australia's peak horticulture research and development body says it is pleasing to see that the majority of outcomes from the existing plan had been achieved.

In 2021, Hort Innovation is engaging with vegetable growers and industry stakeholders to develop a refreshed SIP for the vegetable industry that will span from 2022-2026. The plan will lay the foundation for decision making in levy investments, representing a balanced view of stakeholders from within the industry, helping to prioritise and implement relevant R&D, marketing and export needs over the next five years.'

Head of Data & Insights, Adam Briggs says the existing plan has been active since July 2016 so moving forward it is important to realise what the industry has achieved and if there are any potential gaps.

"Over the last five years, we have actually spent over $80million of R&D levy funds against this plan," he said. "So, it has been a significant investment. It is important to understand what that investment means using the SIP. The way that the plan is set up is that we have five outcomes and a number of strategies that guide investment. Through taking into consideration these strategies, it gives us a point in time perspective of performance and lets us look forward. Breaking it down overall, we can see the dominant investment area concerns productivity, where 35 per cent of the investment has been spent. This is followed by capability, which is concerned with the ability of the industry to adopt and uptake the relevant R&D that has been happening."

He added that there were a number of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to determine whether it was successful, and it is graded into three categories, achieved, in progress, or not achieved. One of the important outcomes, according to Mr Briggs is 'Domestic Demand', which included a number of key initiatives.

"This is concerned with increasing the demand and value of the vegetable industry," he said. "There are six strategies to drive that outcome area; consumer insights, value-adding, stakeholder education, food service, product differentiation and food safety. There were 14 KPIs in this outcome and it was good to see most were achieved, or still in progress. One of the major investments has been the Harvest to Home consumer insights platform; that has shifted the dial to unlock a range of insights to growers to what makes consumers tick and how they can align their products to meet the demand of the consumer. We think this area of Domestic Demand is critical because if we don't increase it, we are not going to get higher returns. We can grow as much as we want but unless the demand is there, there will be little to gain from it."

Another outcome from the SIP is 'Exports', and Mr Briggs says that around 13 per cent of funds were invested in this area. In 2018/19 around seven per cent of leviable vegetables produced in Australia were exported, and while he admitted that was still small, it is growing at a significant rate, so it is an important area for the industry to continue to develop.

"There have been some limitations in the investment, particularly around regional export development and also eCommerce platforms," Mr Briggs said. "On the whole, the vegetable export programs have been achieving some great outcomes for the industry. Particularly, a mid-term review in 2018 found that there was direct attribution of $20million of export revenue linked back to this program. So that is a huge win for the industry. We are also seeing more vegetable farms exporting produce; in 2016 only two per cent were exporting and over the past few years that has ticked up to three per cent. However, one of the perceived barriers to exporting from a growers' perspective was that it was too hard and too time-consuming - so that's a focus area going forward. But broadly, the industry is on track to achieve the 40 per cent growth target that was set."

Source: Hortidaily