The export of horticultural produce represents one of the greatest opportunities for future growth, not just in agriculture, but within the Queensland economy.
However, COVID-19 has and will continue for some time to cause enormous disruption to normal exporting operations, and curtail growth and job creation.
The sudden loss of significant airfreight capacity has left growers of produce destined for export high and dry. Pre-COVID capacity is not expected to be regained for another three years. Practices for promoting our produce overseas are also reliant on international travel and have ground to a halt.
Still, this disruption presents our industry plenty of opportunity. Our agility in adapting to new norms and innovation in creating new export practices will result in long-standing competitive advantages.
So we're in a race that will be won by those able to shorten the cycle between identifying new problems and the delivery of a solution.
For this reason close collaboration with horticultural exporters will be essential. Our industry is quite distinct from the broader agricultural export sector due to the perishable nature of our produce, and has a unique set of constraints and opportunities.
The Queensland government has launched Unite and Recover, an economic recovery strategy for Queensland to respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Agriculture is identified in the strategy as a traditional strength of the Queensland economy, and innovation, and trade and investment are identified as essential for enabling future growth.
Part of the package announced by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk as the second stage of Unite and Recover was $12.5 million for the agribusiness and food sector, which included $5 million to support e-commerce and virtual trade facilitation in key markets and to assist coordination of demand for additional regular air freighter services.
Growcom has welcomed these funds as a well-directed investment in exactly those problems and constraints that most urgently need solving.
Finding problems is perhaps the easy part, while the hardest is in knowing how to go about tackling them. The best innovation is delivered in close collaboration with those nearest to, and with the deepest understanding of the problem. We need to remain agile and responsive in investing these funds.
Growcom and exporters of fresh produce across the state are ready to act as partners in this race to innovate. We're also ready to put our shoulder to the wheel as a key part of growing the Queensland economy to recovery.