Leading the Queensland industry into the future

The Flower Association of Queensland Inc. (FAQI) has just finalised a four-year industry development project, Providing capacity building services to the cut flower and foliage industry, which was supported by Horticulture Australia Ltd (HAL). The outcomes of this highly successful project have included industry leadership, better communication across the industry and a range of industry capacity-building events. The team at FAQI would like to share some of the successes of the last four years with AFI magazine readers.

The overall aim of the project was to support the Queensland flower industry’s progress towards a dynamic, profitable and sustainable long-term future. FAQI has a proven track record of inter-state collaboration to lead the national industry towards these common goals, as well as maintaining the momentum and member service provision on a state level. The association has consistently delivered above expectations throughout the life of the project, thanks to the dedication of the team and also to the professional, hard-working people of the Queensland flower industry. The industry is indebted to HAL for its ongoing financial support for this and other projects managed by FAQI.

Funding to support the industry
The four-year project involved developing and coordinating a series of related projects and activities to meet the business needs of industry and also enable FAQI to continue to grow for the ongoing support of the industry and its members. In addition to funding from HAL with a voluntary contribution paid for by member funds, other project funding sources have included Austrade promotion for the export sector and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC). State government support has all but diminished over the past decade, as it also has for many other industries. One exception has been funding provided by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) for the Rural Water Use Efficiency-Irrigation Futures (RWUE-IF) program. FAQI has been involved in this program since 2009, with the current round concluding in 2017.
With this funding, the FAQI team has successfully administered a number of projects in areas that are vital to our industry.

Growing markets for Queensland
A significant aspect of the project has involved defining the nature and scope of the current Queensland industry and identifying areas for potential further growth. The industry remains strong, with well-defined niche products in both the domestic and export markets. These markets are expanding as growers move into more unique varieties, in response to demands from florists, other retailers and the discerning modern flower consumer. Wholesalers report growth in the industry, which has been demonstrated by increased numbers of plantings.

Interstate sales of cut flowers and foliage are to a large extent driven by Queensland’s climate, which allows for out-of-season supply to the southern markets, as well as the production of specialised sub-tropical and tropical varieties such as Christmas bush and heliconia. The collation of such information on the nature of the markets and the status of the state industry has been a key part of project management and ongoing
project planning.

On-farm and business tools
The industry has clearly improved its position in the market place, with price demands better reflecting the true cost of production. This process has been assisted by the project through the development of targeted industry resources, such as the FAQI
Cost and Profit Calculator, which helps growers accurately cost their products, leading to better financial decision-making during the marketing process.

Other resources that have been developed to help businesses prioritise activities, enhance on-farm processes and make better business decisions have included the Best Bunch Cut Flower Best Practice Guide, The Queensland Cut Flower Industry and Climate Change and the Wildflower Irrigation Handbook.

Learning about imported products
Current and accurate statistical data on cut flower and foliage products is vitally important for a clear understanding of market trends that affect the Australian industry. FAQI is currently collating the results of a project to examine available data on flower imports and exports, to learn more about the global trade in cut flower and foliage products and its relationship to Australian retail and production.

Supporting the national industry
FAQI is a strong supporter of national collaboration through its active involvement in the Australian Flower Council (AFC). On behalf of the AFC, FAQI developed Careers in flowers and foliage: A guide to opportunities in the Australian flower and foliage industry.
The publication highlights the many opportunities and benefits of working in the cut flower and foliage industry, and promotes the professionalism of the industry by emphasising the importance of training and qualifications.

The National Industry Biosecurity Plan (IBP) is another AFC project being managed by FAQI, which will result in the development of a strategy to safeguard the industry against the incursion of exotic pests and diseases. The IBP will assist in minimising the risk of entry, establishment or spread of identified target invasive pests and diseases that could have major economic, social, health or environmental impacts.

Strengthening sustainability
The Rural Water Use Efficiency-Irrigation Futures project (RWUE-IF) is assisting growers to improve their energy and water efficiencies, which are vital steps to improve business profitability and also to protect the environment and our precious non-renewable resources. The project will see the installation of more efficient technology to reduce cool room operation costs by up to 20 per cent, and the installation of automated water application equipment to more precisely apply water to each crop.

More success stories
The project Providing capacity building services to the cut flower and foliage industry has seen a great deal of successful outcomes, almost too numerous to mention in one article. Regular readers of Australian Flower Industry will know that this magazine is a primary method of national industry communication, and it represents yet another significant result of the project. The Know it to Grow it #Commference on the Gold Coast in June was an outstandingly successful industry event which embodied the theme of communication through a focus on networking, information, connections and conversations through all forms of social media.

In addition, projects that played foundational roles in capacity building in the lead up to the current project included Flowers 2006 and Flowers 2011 – The Australian Flower Conference, pest management through the Cut flower and foliage industry pesticide
gap analysis, and Soil-borne biocontrol on western flower thrips in cut flowers.

Where to from here?
As the current project winds down, FAQI’s vision for the invigoration of the Queensland cut flower and foliage industry is a step closer to reality. The team will connect the industry through information and knowledge by launching three new resources, the newly designed FAQI website, the Flower Knowledge Centre and the Queensland Grown resource. And the other projects previously mentioned which are currently in the final stages of completion will be finalised and the results shared with the industry.

It is an exciting time for the cut flower and foliage industry, and the team at FAQI have been privileged to be a part of helping it to go from strength to strength.
by Denyse Corner is the Business and Industry Development Manager for FAQI.