Message from the CEO September 2021

September 16, 2021

The ongoing state and territory COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions continue to challenge our business as usual practices however they’ve also provided us with opportunities to find new ways of facilitating and driving partnerships to improve policy, practice and performance of the plant biosecurity system.

An example of this was the virtual launch of the 2020 edition of the National Plant Biosecurity Status Report (NPBSR) – a comprehensive online resource detailing Australia’s plant biosecurity system and the pre-border, border and post-border activities undertaken in the last year. Now in its 13th year, the NPBSR brings together contributions from over 100 government, industry and research organisations and is the only published source of biosecurity research, development and extension projects aimed at enhancing capability within the system.

While under lockdown, our Canberra-based staff delivered training to 20 staff from Western Australia’s Kings Park Botanical Gardens and Tasmania’s Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens on how to conduct plant biosecurity surveillance. Similarly, our Fruit Fly team also hosted a predictive modelling and forecasting webinar where 150 attendees had the opportunity to hear from some of Australia’s smartest modellers of pest and disease occurrence on the innovative tools and techniques available to support Australia’s trade environment. These events demonstrate our strength in bringing stakeholders together – regardless of the medium.

Ongoing workforce shortages in the agriculture and primary industry sectors as a result of COVID-19, will hopefully soon be a thing of the past, with the Australian Governments’ announcement of the Australian Agriculture visa. Open to workers across agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors, the visa will be key to supporting the Ag2030 target.

Last month we celebrated National Science Week and used the event as an opportunity to reflect and share the important science-based work done in the field of plant biosecurity – including how science enhances plant health, assists in trade, safeguards and supports the future of plant industries and preserves environmental health. Thank you CSIRO and Sugar Research Australia for sharing your scientific knowledge to shine a spotlight on the important role science plays in plant biosecurity.

As we enter Spring, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has announced the agricultural sector is on track for a record-breaking year with gross value of production forecasted to reach $73 billion. The 7 per cent rise is attributed to a near-record winter crop harvest, combined with strong global prices for grain, sugar and cotton. This is the first time the agriculture has been valued at over $70 billion. In more good news, with the onset of Spring, the seasonal weather looks promising with climate models indicating wetter conditions in the coming three months with Spring temperatures set to be cooler.

Sarah Corcoran
CEO, Plant Health Australia