Date: 8th September 2021
Ensuring a proactive approach to good practice and highlighting the benefits of a sustainable berry industry to the Coffs Coast and Clarence Valley regions are among the key goals of a new working group, established through Berries Australia.
The working group pulls together all the major berry producers in the region into a single forum to discuss the challenges and opportunities berry production in the region faces.
The North Coast region is the powerhouse for berry production in NSW and brings more than $400 million into the regional economy.
Berries Australia chair Peter McPherson said the industry was one of the largest employers in the region and the influx of seasonal workers generated significant income for small businesses.
“We are focused on promoting sustainable farming practices and are working closely with the Department of Primary Industries, agricultural advisors and other experts to improve farm management,” he said.
“As an industry we acknowledge that our rapid expansion has led to some challenges in terms of community perception and our goal is not only to promote the positive aspects of the industry but also tackle some of the concerns head on,” Mr McPherson said.
Mr McPherson said there were around 150 growers in this region.
“Our growers, their families and their employees are all active members of this community. The vast majority of people in our industry are passionate about the need to farm sustainably and to protect the environment for their children and future generations.
“We are very willing to take on genuine community concerns and work with the regulators to address poor behaviour. Like any industry, we want to weed out those growers not doing the right thing, whilst at the same time enable good growers to get on with the business of growing.”
Mr McPherson said the industry had shown that when government and regulators work with us, we can deliver real results as was evidenced by the SafeWork NSW Award 2020 for our work communicating to our growers about their WH&S obligations around COVID.
Fundamentally this region should be proud of an industry that not only brings in significant dollars but also contributes to the health and wellbeing of all Australians.
It should also be noted that the industry is subject to significant regulation around many of its practices such as land clearing, fair work obligations and chemical use including spray drift and buffer zones.
Community members who are concerned about specific examples of poor management by berry growers can contact Berries Australia via our website https://berries.net.au/home/about/berries-australia/contact-team/ or the relevant regulator.
For further comment please contact Rachel Mackenzie