Blessing in disguise: Cold snap could help produce prices
OWEN farmers have remained positive about this year's growing season despite a cold snap hindering crops and the industry adapting to new coronavirus measures.
Temperatures plummeted to as low as 7 degrees two weeks ago and proved troublesome for Bowen growers preparing their crops.
However, Bowen Gumlu Growers Association president Carl Walker said it could be a potential blessing in disguise, as the conditions could spread out and flatten the pricing curve.
He said growers had been surprised to see how much demand there was for the product and put the demand down to a change in buying habits since the pandemic.
"To put it simply, that cold snap has put a dampener on things - some of the crops will be down," he said.
"But hopefully what that might mean is less spikes and troughs in pricing this year as the season is a bit more spread out, the market won't be so overloaded.
"We're actually coming into a bit of demand, which is surprising. Farmers are seeing people eat a little differently since the pandemic and there's been a positive upkick in sales that wasn't expected.
"More people are cooking at home and they might need a quarter of capsicum for a recipe but they buy a whole one, whereas a restaurant has overheads and they'll try to use the whole vegetable."
Mr Walker said coronavirus prevention measures had introduced new challenges for growers, but they were used to health regulations and knew a potential case could "wipe out
"We just need one case to enter a farm and get half the team sick and suddenly there are crops wasting away in the ground," he said.
"It's a half a billion-dollar industry in Bowen so we need to make sure it keeps going strong."
Bowen Gumlu Growers Association agricultural work officer Julia Wheway said everyone involved in the industry, from accommodation providers to growers, had been required to submit a COVIDsafe plan to the State Government.
She said the plans would make sure that any risks were minimised and if a virus outbreak was to occur, it would be easily traced.
The industry has introduced various safety measures including personal protection equipment, hand sanitiser, regular temperature checking, working in smaller groups, staggering meal and break times, social distancing in the paddock and tracking the workplace and residence of all seasonal workers.
"It's all steps in making sure that the appropriate risk management is taken," Ms Wheway said.
"If there's a single case, Queensland Health isn't going to come swooping in and shut everything down, but doing these measures will make the process of any tracing much easier and safer."
Ms Wheway said it was important for private accommodation providers to be aware that they were also required to complete a COVIDSafe plan.
"A lot of private providers might not know they need to do a health management plan and might not stay up to date with everything, so we're getting the message out there," she said.