High inputs hit poppies

DESPITE what turned out to be a reasonable season for Tasmania’s poppy growers, growers are still feeling the strain due to increased input costs.

Extractas field officer Noel Bevan gave a run-down on the poppy harvest, highlighting the mild weather in the early months of growth causing issues for some crops.

“We had quite a challenging season, we lost quite a substantial area of crop in the spring with flooding, particularly in Northern Midlands, then we had a very uneventful spring,” Mr Bevan said.
“Sunlight hours were low, the temperatures were very mild, we had the most humid January on record and the highest temperature we had in the south was 31 when it is regularly in the high 30s, so it was a very mild growing season.
“Despite that, most of the crops grew well.
“We had some very good yields and received some very good alkaloids.
“Though we had the usual highs and lows we certainly had some outstanding results.”

Mr Bevan said Extractas had not begun to consider their needs for next season with the growing input costs still dictating decision making.

“Our company was forced to make some big changes a few years ago to deal with the higher input costs.
“The company has a lot of inputs that have to be freighted in so transport costs are as relevant to us as they are to farmers.
“We’re not quite at the point where we have a number, though were expecting to want similar area as this season.”

Poppy Growers Tasmania CEO Keith Rice said for the farmers the season was solid, if unspectacular.

“There weren’t too many issues raised in the last season, it all seemed to go reasonably well with all the usual challenges – the weather, the wind, no sun and heavy rainfalls, those sorts of things are specific to poppies,” Mr Rice said.
“For growers, the biggest issues are the rising costs, which have gone up exponentially since last year’s crop was in the ground, and it doesn’t look like it is going to slow any time soon.”

“Currently, poppy growers are in a holding pattern, we will need to work on input costs, the costs of production and look at the economics at growing any crop, and assess the risk-reward factors of each.”

Mr Rice stressed that while expenses are higher for farmers, poppy growers should be wary before contract negotiations on next seasons prices and volume begin, as the expenses are felt across the industry.

“We have to remember these companies are in the same boat, we don’t live in an isolated world, they’re vulnerable to the price rises too.”

“Their costs are no different to our own, the finished product is sent overseas after processing, and with the increases in transport costs this year, we’d be foolish to think that both companies that support our industry have costs that are equal too, if not greater than our own.”