Last year’s lockdowns in Australia affected many fresh produce companies as the food service sector shut down, things are back to normal now with restaurants operating at 100%.
“We lost around 50-60% of our business to the food service, but we still supplied those businesses which were open for take away,” explains Vincent Eysseric, Production and Marketing Manager at Coolibah Herbs. “The restaurants were only fully open for two months in 2020.”
Coolibah Herbs supplies washed salad greens, mixed leaves and a variety of culinary herbs and vegetable to retail and food service.
“The most difficult thing last year was knowing what to plant as we had no idea if we would have a market for our crops once we harvested them. We took the decision that it was our job to keep feeding the nation and planted as normal. Our retail sales increased as food service dropped, people at home with time on their hands took to home cooking, as a lot of our retail sales are organic the only adjustment we made was grow more organic vegetables, salads and herbs and less conventional. People also became more health conscious and wanted to build up their imine systems.”
On the whole the weather has been good in Victoria, the La Niña has brought wetter weather this year but nothing extreme and there have been no extremely hot spells this summer, which is great for growers.
“Export is very challenging due the lack of passenger flights, there is only around 10% of the normal volume of flights, this has had a follow-on effect on airfreight. Airfreight is three times more expensive now and can be cancelled at any time, which makes it risky for sensitive produce such as ours. For high value products such as lobster or premium meat the cost can be absorbed, but that is not the case for salads and herbs, we are still exporting some to of the high-end retailers in Asia, but it is a complicated business these days.”