It has been a very cold wet winter in Victoria and has been since the beginning of August, according to Vincent Eysseric from Coolibah Herbs. “It is starting to affect supply and we are now seeing shortages. Spring should start in September but there are no signs of it yet, normally we are starting to feel a change in the temperature by now, we may struggle with the crop till mid-September.
Coolibah Herbs produces a number of different salad mixes for both the domestic and export markets. Two thirds of the business is growing leafy salads such as lettuce, for both retail and wholesale customers, with the remaining third is herbs and vegetables such as spinach, black and green kale and one third of production is certified organic.
“We have another farm 600 kms to the north where the weather is warmer, we produce 2/3 of the crop there so it is not a disaster.”
The company has been undergoing a $5 million expansion of the packing and cooling facilities. The first stage of expansion is already done and by April or May next year the second stage should be ready with the final phase reaching completion by June, giving Coolibah Herbs more cold storage space and a bigger high care facility.
“Part of this expansion has been a new packing line for pillow packs, this was introduced in our aim to cut the amount of plastic used,” said Vincent. “The clam shells which we have been using have 20-22g of plastic whereas the pillow packs only have 3-4 grams.”
“Our export markets give us a big boost and we now export to Dubai, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan. China would be an interesting market for us, but Australia does not yet have access for the soft leafy green salad leave which we produce.”
All of the products for export must be air freighted as they only have 12 days of shelf life, the cost has been stable, but the big problem according to Vincent is a new security screening which was introduced in February. “Every product must be screened for metal, explosives etc. before it can be loaded on to the plane. This adds 24 hours on to the transit time which is a lot for such a sensitive product. The main issue is that the flights leave early morning and if we deliver our produce early morning as we have done in the past our freight forwarders do not have time to scan everything before the plane leaves. So now we must deliver the produce the night before, which is not ideal.
“Of course we do have metal detectors in our processing line but in order to get security clearance at the farm stage it must visited by officials and checked out to receive the authorisation, this is something we are definitely looking at for the future to save us time and cost.”
Cooloibah Herbs will at Asia Fruit Logistic Hall 3 stand S-02