Vegie growth spurt

TASMANIA is playing a crucial role in the growth of Australia’s horticulture sector and is now the country’s biggest producer of some key fruits and vegetables.

New data from Hort Innovation shows the production value of Australia’s horticulture industry has grown by $6.15 billion over the past decade. Tasmania is the country’s biggest producer of potatoes, peas and rubus berries. The state accounts for 91 per cent of the country’s fresh pea production, which overall was worth $70.1 million last year, an increase of 11 per cent.

Tasmania also plays a vital role in the country’s potato production making up 31 per cent, the largest of any state. Potato production across the country was worth $830.2 million last year and 67 per cent of the potatoes grown in the country were processed.

In the fruit sector, Tasmania in now the country’s largest grower of raspberries and blackberries, making up 29 per cent of production, which is worth $59 million a year. The new edition of the Horticulture Statistics Handbook includes information on 75 horticulture categories across fruit, vegetables, nuts, and greenlife.

Hort Innovation chief executive officer Brett Fifield said an analysis of the handbook since 2012-2013 found growth in production volumes and values.

He said Australia was now producing 850,000 tonnes more than in 2012-2013 and the annual value was up $6.15 billion.

“This means the industry has added, on average, around $680 million in value every year for the past decade.”

Last year the production value of Australia’s horticulture industry grew to $15.62 billion. Vegetable production reached an all-time high of $5.54 billion despite a modest decrease in volume from the previous year.

Beans had the highest annual production value growth rate of all vegetables, up 64 per cent in 2021-2022 and recording its highest production value of $134.4million. Onions also reached new highs, exceeding $249 million.

AUSVEG chief executive officer Michael Coote said while the long-term growth in the vegetable industry had been impressive, it had recently been struggling with costs.

“Weather events, labour shortages and supply chain issues have impacted production volumes of many vegetables,” Mr Coote said.

“High production costs and challenges in sourcing labour have also significantly impacted growers’ bottom lines so while the overall production value of many lines is higher than previous years, the profitability of many growers is lower as these increases have not been enough to meet increases in costs.”

However, he said when looking at the longer-term growth of the sector, production volumes and values had grown strongly in a great sign for the ongoing viability of the industry.