When you listen to the doom and gloom in the media, it is hard to consider any positives. However, as an industry, we have a lot to be thankful for.
Nearly all our production businesses have continued to operate throughout the pandemic. Our allied suppliers have adapted to increasingly complex supply chains, many of which are overseas and heavily impacted by the reduction in international freight. Our retail businesses have been impacted to varying degrees by state-based restrictions and this area continues to provide Greenlife Industry Australia (GIA) with its greatest challenges. Recently, during the SA shutdown, we assisted the Nursery & Garden Association of South Australia (NGISA) with information about why our industry had been categorized as an essential industry and how other states had accepted those conditions. More recently, when the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) went into shutdown, we assisted the Nursery & Garden Industry NSW & ACT (NGINA) with joint submissions to the Chief Minister of the ACT, seeking exemptions for our retail businesses. It is frustrating for all concerned when there is inconsistency between the States and Territories. However, our retail businesses have been extremely agile in adapting to a different operating environment, where online marketing, social media and ‘click and collect’, are the new norms.
President, Glenn Fenton
So, as we head for a mostly vaccinated Australia and many of the restrictions are removed, what are the future operating conditions for our industry? From a production perspective, apart from some input restrictions in potting media, we are in a good position. When you compare us to the building industry, who are experiencing significant shortfalls in supply of building products, we are well-placed to meet demand. Landscape and commercial installations will continue to be strong. Australia’s mid-term weather forecasts are very favourable for the agricultural and horticulture sectors and water storages in rural and city areas are heading in the right direction. There is a significant movement of people from urban to rural areas underway, seeking a greener, less complicated life. This can only assist us. As our urban areas come out of an extended lock down, there is a sense that we have developed a new generation of gardeners with a thirst for knowledge. Our retailers have developed sophisticated e-commerce and on-line marketing over the last 18 months and should be able to build on this interest. Our flag-ship national industry marketing event, the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, appears set to come out of hibernation after a couple of difficult shutdowns. So, I expect there will be huge media and interstate interest in this important event.
There will be Federal and State elections next year and this will require a lot of advocacy work by your State organisations and GIA. We cannot be complacent in this area as WE know the benefits that established connections and an informed political bureaucracy can bring to our industry in a time of crisis.