Now or never for AU melon industry

Melon growers across the country start casting their ballots from early October to decide on the revised industry proposal to establish agricultural levies totalling 0.4c/kg on all produce sold, to benefit the industry as a whole.

The Australian Melon Association (AMA) has been building support among growers for the initiative. AMA Chairman and Emerald grower, Mark Daunt sees the levy as crucial for the future of the industry, “There has been strong support from all growers, small and large, and in all regions.”

“We’ve held grower workshops in regions and phoned growers around the country – talking to them about the need for the proposed levies,” Mr Daunt said. “Originally we proposed a levy package of 0.5c/kg, but many growers felt that this was too much. The AMA has always prided itself on the fact that it is a grower peak body that represents the needs of melon growers and listens – for this reason, we reduced the proposed levy to 0.4c/kg.”

Mr Daunt said that the whole process has been driven by growers. “The majority of growers that I’ve spoken with understand the importance of these levies for biosecurity and for investing in research”.

The proposal has come at a critical time for the industry, which has seen exotic pest incursions affecting the crop as well as changes in R&D funding arrangements that threaten the ability to do the research that growers need.

An incursion of cucumber green mottle mosaic virus (CGMMV) into NT and Queensland and melon necrotic spot virus in southern Australia have demonstrated the risks of exotic plant pests. At the same time, changes in research and development funding for horticulture mean that the melon industry can no longer access matched funding through Horticulture Innovation Australia (previously HAL), reducing the industry’s ability to conduct critical R&D that benefits growers.
Growers will vote on whether to pay the 0.4c/kg levy on all produce sold. This includes a 0.1c/kg Plant Health Australia Levy to fund biosecurity initiatives such as pest and disease monitoring, surveillance and education and extension services for growers as well as cover PHA membership.

An Emergency Plant Pest Response Levy will be set at zero, only becoming positive in the future if the industry has to cost share an agreed emergency response. This zero rated levy allows the industry to sign the EPPRD and be involved in decision making for any future incursions, unlike the CGMMV response.

The third component is an R&D levy of 0.3c/kg which will receive matching funds from the Australian Government and will conduct critical industry research to improve the profitability of the melon industry into the future and continue current industry development activities.

The AMA has sent out detailed information packages explaining the proposed levies and ballot papers to over 220 registered growers over the past few weeks. Mr Daunt hopes that growers have read all of the information that has been provided so that they can understand what is being proposed and support the proposal.

“It is now or never for the melon industry. We need to unite behind the proposal and vote ‘yes’ for both levies,” Mr Daunt said. “Both of these levies complement one another and I’m worried about the future of the industry if we can’t get this proposal through. Without these levies the melon industry will have no research, biosecurity protection or an ability to assist affected growers in the future”.
Voting on the proposed levies is open from the 6th of October to the 6th of November. The Australian Melon Association is coordinating the levy project in conjunction with Plant Health Australia.

Detailed information on the proposed levies and ballot forms are available to download from the AMA website.

For more information:
Dianne Fullelove
Australian Melon Association
Tel: +61 0413 101 646
Email: idp@melonsaustralia.org.au

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