By Leigh Siebler, Manager of Garden Centres of Australia
Leigh Siebler, Manager of Garden Centres of Australia, is calling for a Minister who can truly represent the diverse sectors within the greenlife industry, and not only as it relates to agricultural production (Image: Leigh Siebler)
In the lead up to the 2022 Federal Election, Greenlife Industry Australia (GIA) is asking industry leaders to share their hopes for the future of the horticulture industry. Leigh Siebler, Manager of Garden Centres of Australia, wants our industry to be properly recognised by government, making a strong call for a Minister for Garden.
My big election wish is for our industry to be properly recognized by Government!
It is a privilege to be invited to write an opinion piece in the Greenlife Industry Australia (GIA) News. I should preface my writing by stating that I have been in the industry since January 1970 and that has primarily been working in retail. Ten years of that was physically running a small retail nursery and the following years were varied but all were involved with retail, consulting, and management.
I do not believe we are currently recognised as we should be. In all states and at federal level, as far as I know, we come under the Minister for Agriculture. In my opinion we are lost in that portfolio. I am told that Agriculture has thirty sectors, and we are one of the largest.
Let us look at the federal level currently and put to one side that things could change after the election.
The Minister for Agriculture and Northern Territory, The Hon David Littleproud, currently has two portfolios. He has a very good relationship with Graham Ross from Better Homes & Gardens. That is excellent and both the Minister and Graham were exceptionally helpful during COVID particularly in NSW and ACT.
However, to me the Minister more appropriate for us would be the Minister for the Environment, The Hon Sussan Ley MP. Improving the environment is what we are about. How would it be if we had Minister for the Environment and Horticulture or even better Minister for the Environment and Garden. Having a Federal Minister at least sharing a portfolio for our industry would be a great start and then hopefully that would flow through to each state. In time, we might actually have a Minister for Garden.
Garden is a very strong word and better than gardening. There is no doubt that during the COVID-19 pandemic, in Australia and around the world, millions of people discovered or returned to the garden. They voted with their feet that ‘plants and gardens were going to be their therapy’.
Our industry has helped save people’s mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic. And we are still doing it, so we deserve more recognition than we get.
Does our industry justify a shared government minister or a portfolio of its own?
The latest GIA figures show that our industry is valued at $2.8 Billion (2020/2021) so it is clearly more now. That of course is “farmgate value”, surely an agricultural term, not horticultural or garden. As Hamish Mitchell said, maybe we should be showing a retail figure to government to show what our industry is really worth. But of course, he was commenting on just plants.
The garden industry is much more than plants. Allied traders I believe are often neglected in our industry, but they are big business. After discussions with suppliers, I believe the sales of fertilisers, insecticides, potting mixes, composts etc are around $1 billion at wholesale. Then you add in the garden tools, accessories, power tools, lawn mowers and so on and you could possibly have another $1 billion. I have not worked those out. You then look at homewares, clothing, decorative containers, and gifts that so many garden centres sell now and you might be able to add $500 million or probably more to those figures.
So now garden becomes an industry valued at around $6 billion. Add a conservative 33% mark up to retail and surely that is a figure worth talking to government about. I guess we need some key people meeting together to verify figures, but I have a feeling if anything my estimates are low.
Why the word ‘garden’ and not ‘horticulture’?
Garden is a more user-friendly term and is easily related back to our industry. There will be some who say it downplays our professionalism but try saying that to the late Kevin Heinze and believe me you would have an argument. There is no reason that you cannot have horticultural qualifications and still talk garden to governments and consumers. We already have the Australian Garden Council and Garden Media Guild (UK) so the precedent is there.
Part of the garden dollar figure too is landscape supplies, landscapers, gardeners (including Jim’s franchisees, i.e. labour) and more. They all come under garden and add to our value. Sure, plants and some allied products are captured in other figures, but many are not.
It would be wonderful to see the full dollar value of our industry highlighted with all governments in Australia. They can then appreciate what the industry offers to the community.
Garden Centres of Australia
NB. The information presented here is provided for informational and educational purposes. Any views or opinions expressed in this piece belong solely to its author and do not necessarily reflect those of Greenlife Industry Australia (GIA) or its board members. GIA makes no representations as to the accuracy and/or completeness of any information contained within this article or its links.