One in a melon: Growers remain resilient despite challenges

7 January 2022

For many of Australia’s melon growers, it’s been a roller-coaster 24 months. 

After struggling to export due to border restrictions caused by COVID-19, resulting in a 40 per cent decrease in exports in the 20/21 financial year, things began to pick up towards the end of 2021.  

Freight opportunities increased and some exporters were able to distribute twice the amount of fresh watermelons, rockmelons and other specialty melons to international locations compared to same period in 2020.  

But in early December a record-breaking deluge damaged many crops across Queensland, with the widespread storms demonstrating the array of challenges faced within the industry.

Despite the difficulties presented by the pandemic and weather, melon exporters have been able to utilise Austrade’s International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) which has helped keep global supply chains open.  

Melons Australia CEO Johnathon Davey said IFAM had allowed Australian melon exporters to remain connected to key markets including New Zealand, Singapore, the UAE and Japan during the pandemic.

“The IFAM team have been really proactive and on the ball,” Mr Davey said.

“The program has allowed us to stay connected to our existing markets in the short term while the industry looks to adapt it’s operations to new-look supply chains.”

cut-melons

IFAM helping Australian businesses survive

IFAM is a temporary, targeted, emergency support measure put in place by the Australian Government to keep global air links open in response to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Austrade’s International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) freight controller, Air Vice-Marshal Margaret Staib, said IFAM flights had been critical to supporting regional jobs and getting local produce out the door during tough times.

“IFAM maintains global air connections and protects hard fought market share, while targeting support where it is needed most,” Air Vice-Marshal Staib said.

“At IFAM, we are committed to rebuilding global air supply chains and helping Australian businesses and the airfreighting sector as they adjust to the changed trade environment.” 

New-season-rockmelons

Industry looking to the future

The Australian melon industry consists of approximately 200 growers producing some 189,000 tonnes of melons annually across an area of around 8500 hectares.

The major melon types produced in Australia are rockmelons, honeydew melons and watermelons. Growers also produce various specialty melon lines for export and local markets, including the Piel de Sapo and Orange Candy varieties.

Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia and New South Wales are major producers of melons, with Victoria and South Australia producing lower but still significant volumes.

Mr Davey said the industry was traditionally more reliant on sea freight but had looked to more air freight options as a result of the changing transport landscape around the world.

“There’s been a 50/50 split between air freight and sea freight at the moment,” he said. 

“I think we will see more innovation and adoption of new technology moving forward as the industry adapts to the new normal and finds the best mix between air and sea freight.” 

International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM)

The International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM) is a temporary, targeted, emergency support measure put in place by the Australian Government to keep global air links open in response to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.