AN independent review into the performance of Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) has recommended it move to become a grower-owned research and development corporation (RDC).
It’s one of nine key recommendations in a final report released today from a review into HAL and the horticulture levy system, conducted by consultants ACIL Allen.
The review is required under the statutory funding agreement between the Australian government and HAL.
HAL is the research, development and marketing body owned by horticulture peak bodies.
It invests around $107 million of grower levies and taxpayer funds annually in horticulture programs designed to boost profitability and productivity, in-line with the government’s Rural Research and Development priorities.
Among the report’s other key recommendations is removing industry advisory committees (IAC) from decisions about research and development (R&D) investment.
The report’s summary describes IACs as “costly, unwieldy and conflicted” and that external advice was essential.
It also recommends HAL, or a future RDC, improve its direct communication with growers.
Greater efficiency and transparency in the management of industry levies is also recommended, with the report stating the number of different levy types needed to be reduced.
In a statement, HAL CEO John Lloyd said the review involved thorough consultation with the industry over several months.
“A comprehensive process - conducted at arm’s length from HAL and the government - has produced a set of strategic and operational findings that warrant due consideration by our members and levy payers,” Mr Lloyd said.
He said the HAL board would respond to the final report and recommendations within the next three months, following consultation with members during a series of member workshops on May 27-28.
“HAL looks forward to continuing to play a key role in maintaining the competitiveness of Australian horticulture for the benefit of members, growers and the wider community,” he said.
In a statement, Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said the report makes a strong and persuasive case for grower levy-payers to be the owners of the organisation and to have a direct say in how investments are made in the future.
“Having dealt extensively with horticulture industry groups I am not surprised that the report recommends significant change to the research and development, and marketing services delivery model for Australian horticulture,” Minister Joyce said.
“Horticulture Australia Limited was established in 2001 to serve 43 separate peak industry bodies and the Australian industry and the markets that it supplies have matured a lot since then.
“The shape of international markets is changing rapidly and our producers need to respond with agility and make wise investments to take advantage of the opportunities.
“Research and development will play a crucial role in positioning the Australian horticulture industry to take advantage of the emerging demand from the Asian region for high quality, safe food.
“Given the importance of this issue to the horticulture sector, I hope that the Horticulture Australia Limited Board will respond to the final report in a timely manner after consulting with their members.”