CEO Update September 2020

I hope you are well, and your businesses are prospering, as best as they can, given the specific operating environment you are working in. The COVID-19 situation is still settling across the country and we hope to hear good news this weekend about restrictions in Victoria, particularly for retailers. I am being advised that the biggest challenge for the industry over spring is being able to keep up with demand for greenlife, having stock of appropriate sale size and in some instances obtaining the inputs needed for plant production as well as continued adaptation of operations to the new mode of operation as an outcome of COVID-19.

The Greenlife Industry Australia (GIA) Board met last week. In my update, I will provide a summary on the key items and activities discussed at the meeting:

Approval of GIA Financial Report for the Year Ended 30 June 2020
The first audited financial report for GIA was presented to the Board for review and discussion. The Board passed a motion to accept the Financial Report. The financial report will be included in the first Annual Report for GIA that will be provided in the papers for the Annual General Meeting to be held on Wednesday 2 December.
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GIA Board Committees
The Board has a particular focus on the establishment of sub-committees to provide insights and advice for the delivery of the GIA strategy and strategic imperatives. The Promotion (Special Purpose), Careers and Australia Plant Production Standard (APPS - Governance Committee) committees are in place. The call for applications for the Sustainability committee closed on 18 September with the aim to have the first meeting in October. The next committees to be established will be to support GIA’s advocacy and funding areas.

The committees will be integral in working with the Board to review and update existing policies such as biosecurity, plant labelling guidelines, water and environmental sustainability as well looking to develop new policies around waste, energy, plant traceability, bushfire management and ethical nursery production practices.

Two working groups will be operating to address nursery industry insurance and a review of the Nursery Award. These are both important issues within the operation of nursery businesses and we will provide regular updates on their findings and how to progress insurance and a review of the Award.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Advocacy and Communications
Glenn Fenton advised the Board that engagement and advocacy efforts had been ongoing in Victoria who were working through all channels and relationships to have garden centres opened up as soon as possible. He noted any decision will be based on Government health guidelines and new and active COVID-19 cases.

The key areas being addressed across all of horticulture are with respect to labour availability and movement, transport and farming inputs. GIA management is maintaining a watching brief on the COVID-19 situation and address advocacy and communications activities as required.

The continued message from Government is to ensure your business is operating under a COVID-19 plan, maintain health, hygiene and social distancing practices and be able to adapt and modify operations to changing conditions as restrictions “rise and fall”.

Plant Pals Promotion Program
The Plant Pals campaign is a member based promotion program focused on providing member garden centres with the tools to make the campaign their own and to build engagement with their own followers and customers. It is built on a suite of assets to inform, educate, inspire and keep the next generation of Australian gardeners, ensuring that they have success and continue gardening long after COVID-19 has faded from memory.

A second phase of the campaign is being implemented in order to help maintain momentum in spring by keeping new and emerging gardeners engaged with greenlife and providing continued education support for Australia’s gardening public.

Hort Innovation
There are a number of areas of engagement between GIA and Hort Innovation with the Plant Life Balance campaign; biosecurity, statistics, communications, and careers R&D programs; and engagement through the SIAP. I was also involved in a Hort Innovation – Peak Industry Body forum today and an Extraordinary General Meeting has been called by a group of members for Hort Innovation. Please see the separate article in this GIA news for details on these two items.

Australian Plant Production Standard (APPS)
The delivery of the APPS programs of NIASA, EcoHort and BioSecure HACCP is continuing, but somewhat at a distance due to COVID-19. Auditors are back in the field in some states and we are determining how to conduct audits in other states where there are inter and intra state movement challenges.

A commercial review of the entire standard is being conducted by Impact Innovation. John McDonald and I have been involved in the project which is looking at the commercial imperative of the programs, identifying where there are operational gaps and financial shortfalls and will provide an analysis, validation and recommendation of options going forward.

GIA Digital Platform
We are in the process of implementing a new digital platform for GIA with a new database and website and management of the server. The aim is to have the new platform operational before the end of 2020. We will keep you advised of developments and how it will provide benefits to members of GIA.

ACCC - Consultation for Perishable Agricultural Goods Inquiry
GIA made a submission to the ACCC inquiry into perishable agricultural goods following consultation with State NGI Associations, GIA members and other industry participants. The inquiry aims to obtain and assess views on how the relative bargaining power of farmers, processors and retailers involved in supply chains for perishable agricultural goods affects trading practices. GIA made the submission on behalf of the greenlife and nursery sector supply chains, given that the inquiry is in relation to goods and services, including plants or their products or parts, which includes nursery stock. The submission provided details on the bargaining power of suppliers and buyers across the greenlife supply chains.

Upcoming GIA Meetings
The next Board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 10 November and the Annual General Meeting will be held on Wednesday 2 December. More details on the AGM will be provided in due course.

Please contact me at ceo@greenlifeindustry.com.au if you would like to provide comments or have questions on the activities of Greenlife Industry Australia.