Minister opens $80 million tomato glasshouses

View all articles

Costa’s $80 million expansion of its tomato glasshouse operation at Guyra was formally opened today (December 3) by The Honourable Adam Marshall, Member for Northern Tablelands and Minister for Agriculture and Western New South Wales.

The expansion includes two new five-hectare glasshouses and a 2.5-hectare propagation nursery at the New England Highway site, just north of the town of Guyra. It brings the total Costa glasshouse footprint to more than 40 hectares in the Guyra region.

The first of the new glasshouses is now in full production, and the second will come online in the new year.  It will bring the total production across the 40 hectares to more than 18 million kilos of tomatoes per annum.

Costa employs more than 650 workers across the two glasshouse sites, spending approximately $31 million annually on wages and salaries. Once both new glasshouses are fully operational an additional 160 jobs will be created.

Jose Cambon, Costa’s Vertical Farming General Manager, said the New England Highway site was fully water self-sufficient. It includes an innovative microturbine power generation system, one of the first of its kind in the world to be used in a glasshouse environment, which will result in significantly reduced C02 emissions.

“Our people have showed outstanding character and skill in planning, designing and building this facility, which also includes a state-of-the-art nursery to develop and propagate new varieties and will create 160 new jobs for the local region,” Mr Cambon said.

“At times it was not an easy process, with the project having been paused due to the drought and then once recommenced having to navigate through the significant challenges of COIVD.  To this end, everyone can feel rightly proud of the role they’ve played in the completion of the project and the operation of the site.

“I also want to recognise the contribution of the many local businesses who worked on the construction of the glasshouse. Their involvement was crucial to the project’s successful completion.”

Mr Cambon said Costa was proud of its connection with the Guyra and surrounding community and the opportunities this project provided, ensuring people could pursue jobs and careers while remaining in the local area.

Tasmania berry season kicks off

View all articles

Costa Berries Tasmania today (November 17) launched its local recruitment campaign for the 2021/22 harvest season.

Costa Berries Tasmania General Manager Cameron Folder was joined by Guy Barnett, Minister for Primary Industries and Water, at the East Devonport Strawberry Farm.

Mr Folder said the aim of the campaign was to build upon the success of last summer’s season.

“Last season we employed almost 500 locals in a variety of roles from picking, crop maintenance, pack shed work and truck driving,” Mr Folder said.

“An important part of last season’s recruitment was the support the horticulture industry received from the Tasmanian and Australian Governments.”

Costa welcomes the continuation of these initiatives for the upcoming season including the Tasmanian Government’s Tassie Harvest Jobs – Take Your Pick local worker campaign and the Australian Government’s AgMove program that supports potential workers to relocate to regional areas for the harvest season.

Costa’s local recruitment campaign is multi layered including a range of digital, print and radio advertising, recruitment days across North and North West Tasmania, school and university information days.

Costa is also working closely with local employment agencies and providing support to people who need assistance with the application process.

The first application assistance session will be held at our East Devonport Distribution Centre to help people through the application process. Costa has also started planning off-site North West Coast recruitment days, with the first to be held in Devonport on December 9.

Mr Folder said it was pleasing that many of the locals who started work with Costa last season, have continued over the winter months in maintenance roles, preparing the crop for this season’s harvest.

Costa will also be increasing the number of Pacific Island Seasonal Workers it employs directly, rather than through labour providers, to complement the local workforce.

With the loss of backpackers across Australia there is an increased need to find alternative labour.

“Next week Costa will be transferring 136 seasonal workers from our citrus operations in South Australia to work on local farms. The workers will be accommodated in Devonport and just as the local community embraced the seasonal workers last season, I am sure the people of Devonport will give them a warm welcome,” Mr Folder said.

AFPA Statement on the variation of the Horticulture Award 2021

View all articles

The Fair Work Commission has handed down a decision to vary the Horticulture Award to ensure that all pieceworkers must be paid a minimum hourly rate in accordance with the employee’s classification and type of employment. The Commission’s decision has set a clear and enforceable standard for employers in the industry.

The Commission’s decision relies on evidence of non-compliance with the current Award as a basis for making this variation. It is the employers that are at the heart of this evidence and ongoing media reporting that must be subject to enforcement following the implementation of this variation. For too long, employers who willingly and actively participate in third-party audited employment schemes, engage openly with Unions and participate in industry discussions on workplace conditions are the employers that are the subjects and targets of enforcement – which does nothing to address non-compliance.

This separation of good and compliant employers from poor, non-compliant employers must now be addressed. Regulators, like the Fair Work Ombudsman must be well resourced to provide education materials on how to implement the Commission’s decision and enforce it. The implementation of this decision from the Fair Work Commission is critical to addressing the uneven playing field non-compliant employers have benefited from for far too long.

Evidence, and reports made of underpayment must be rigorously pursued by well-resourced regulators and must focus on those employers that hide in the supply chain, that will not credential themselves with industry standards and third-party audits and that refuse to believe the rules apply to them. It is these poor practices that the Commission’s decision is based upon, and it is these employers that need to become compliant or simply exit the industry.

While enforcement from regulators is a key component of implementing the Commission’s decision, success at levelling the playing field in the sector will only come when the fresh produce supply chain refuses to purchase from, support or advocate for employers who are wilfully non-compliant.

Retail, wholesale and food service buyers of fresh produce must acknowledge the same evidence that the Commission has considered, that is, there are a number of employers who are not compliant with conditions stipulated in the Horticulture Award. Whether purchasing directly, or indirectly, buyers must not ignore this and need to ensure that their supply chains are only made up of employers that are ready, willing and able to meet the new standards set in the Award. Non-compliance can no longer be rewarded.

Members of the AFPA are committed to developing a productive and returning workforce. Increases in the number of Australians and Pacific visa holders employed, a rigorous new Agriculture Visa, and now a commitment to enforcement from the Commission through this decision are all key in assisting industry to develop this workforce.

The Commission’s decision must be used by all fresh produce stakeholders to level the playing field among growers and reward only those who are committed to ethical, sustainable and productive employment.

About AFPA – The Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA) is made up of Australia’s key fresh produce growers and suppliers, including Costa. AFPA members represent half the industry turnover of the Australian fresh produce (fruit and vegetables) sector – $4.5 billion of the $9.1 billion total; 1,000 plus growers through commercial arrangements and more than 15,000 direct employees through peak harvest, and up to 25,000 in the grower network.

Excellence in Sustainability Award

View all articles

Costa’s Berry farm in Corindi has won the 2021 Excellence in Sustainability Award in the Mid North Coast NSW Business Awards.

The Excellence in Sustainability Award recognises a business that has demonstrated its commitment to sustainable business practices and is working to reduce the impact of its operations on the environment.

Winners of the Awards, which cover the region from Woolgoolga in the north to Forster Tuncurry in the south, are now finalists in the State Business Awards to be held in November.

Rob King, Costa’s Regional Manager for Corindi, said the award was welcome recognition for the work being done across the farm, particularly in the areas of biodiversity, reducing water use and reducing waste.

“We have a highly committed team who have put in place a range of initiatives across our farm.  That has included everything from using beneficial insects to reduce chemical use, to state-of-the-art weigh scale sensors to reduce water and fertiliser use,” Mr King said.

The majority of the farm’s agricultural plastics, including tunnel plastic, have been recycled through local firm Coffs Paper and Oil and turned into different products including park seats and building films and bollards.

Mr King said all scrap metal was collected and recycled through local businesses and more than 90 per cent of the carboard and paper waste from packaging is recycled.

“Our sustainability projects are led by a Sustainability Team, a group of passionate staff members who meet monthly to identify and implement projects to address sustainability in key issues.  This has led to a range of on-site activities including a tree planting program to enhance biodiversity on the farm,” he said.

The Corindi farm has also been actively working with PolyGro (an agricultural product provider) to scope the establishment of a pilot plastic stewardship program “HortiCycle” in the North Coast region. This program seeks to improve the recycling of agricultural plastics by integrating existing recycling businesses (such as Coffs Harbour Paper and Oil) and develop new business along all points of the recycling chain to remove plastic waste from landfill.

The Corindi team receives the Mid North Coast Business NSW Excellence in Sustainability Award.

China JV earns Impact Award

View all articles

Costa and Driscoll’s joint venture blueberry operation in China has won this year’s Impact Award in the Asia Fruit Awards, announced this week.

The joint venture, which was established in 2015, includes close to 300 hectares of blueberries in the Yunnan Province in southern China.

The Impact Award recognises a person, company or organisation that has made a significant contribution to developing the fresh produce business in Asia.

Announcing the winner, Asiafruit editor John Hey said the Costa JV had brought world-leading berry growing technologies, varieties and farming expertise to China.

“These investments have helped to set benchmarks in terms of quality standards and price realisation for domestically grown berries in China. The partners’ Yunnan-grown berries consistently sell for significantly higher prices than imported berries in China, delivering a premium experience for Chinese consumers,” Mr Hey said.

In addition to its market impact, the JV was recognised for its social and economic impact in terms of poverty alleviation in the communities where it operates.

“The development of high-value berry production in Yunnan has established a lucrative industry that local communities can benefit from in terms of job creation and farmer incomes.”

Peter McPherson, General Manager of Costa Berries International, said it was a great honour and privilege to win the Impact Award.

“Over the space of five or six years, we have managed to establish a significant vertically integrated berry business, in which we have utilised Costa’s and Driscoll’s world leading reputation as growers and marketers of premium berries,” Mr McPherson said.

“This has included the establishment of substrate and protected berry plantings in Yunnan Province, southern China.  Costa now operates across four main growing locations, with almost 300 planted hectares and more under development as we speak.

“What has been achieved to date is a great credit to all involved.

“We have had a commitment to work cooperatively and harmoniously with stakeholders including government officials, employees, local villages and the surrounding community. We have also worked closely with the local authorities to ensure that what we are doing provides benefit for the local communities. In particular, helping with poverty alleviation through providing ongoing employment.”

Mr McPherson thanked Asia Fruit Logistica and Asia Fruit Magazine for staging the Asia Fruit Awards.

“Both organisations deserve enormous credit for all they have done to promote the fresh produce industry in Asia.”

Costa supports TCFD

View all articles

Costa has declared its support for the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), joining more than 1500 organisations in demonstrating a commitment to building a more resilient financial system and safeguarding against climate risk through better disclosures.

The TCFD, chaired by Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, provides market participants with recommendations to address the financial impact of climate change on their business. By increasing transparency on financially material climate-related risks and opportunities the recommendations promote more informed financial decision-making by investors, lenders and others.

Sean Hallahan, Costa Managing Director and CEO, said Costa had committed to implementing the four key TCFD recommendations relating to governance, strategy, risk management and metrics and targets.

“We have identified the TCFD as the most appropriate framework to manage and respond to risk, but also as a tool to identify opportunities,” Mr Hallahan said.

“We have prioritised the management of climate related risk, the need for innovation and the use of new and emerging technology in the way we grow our crops,” Mr Hallahan said. 

“We have also implemented a Horticultural Innovation and Technology Committee to drive our response to climate related risks and establish quantitative targets.”

In particular, Costa is focused on water use efficiency and security, energy efficiency and security, waste reduction and investment in protected cropping.

Supporters of the TCFD span the public and private sectors and include national governments, central banks, stock exchanges, credit rating agencies, financial organisations and private sector businesses from a variety of industries.

Widespread implementation of the TCFD recommendations will provide investors, lenders, and insurance underwriters with consistent and relevant information to understand the economic risks and opportunities resulting from climate change.

Increased disclosures in line with the recommendations across sectors and geographies will help global markets make more efficient capital allocation decisions and adjust appropriately to the disruptive effects of global climate change.

For more information about the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, please visit www.fsb-tcfd.org

Media contacts:

Brigid Veale, Costa Group Public Relations and Communications Manager, brigid.veale@costagroup.com.au.

Veronika Henze, Communications, TCFD, vhenze@bloomberg.net.

Hayley Moller, Communications, TCFD, hmoller@gpg.com.

About the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures

On December 4, 2015, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) established the industry-led Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) with Michael R. Bloomberg as Chair. The Task Force currently has four Vice Chairs and 32 members in total. The TCFD was asked to develop voluntary, consistent climate-related financial disclosures for use by companies in providing information to lenders, insurers, investors and other stakeholders, which were published in the TCFD Recommendations Report on June 29, 2017. More information about the TCFD can be found at www.fsb-tcfd.org.

COVID leads to fruitful work

View all articles

With COVID disrupting their long-term careers, Craig and Fiona Dennes decided to answer the call for more fruit pickers – turning work into an opportunity to explore Australia.

Last year the couple, originally from Taree, found themselves without employment after long careers in the telecommunications and retail industries.

“Our lives were flowing along as usual with everyday 9-5 jobs,” Fiona said.

“Craig worked at Telstra for more than 36 years as a technical expert, and I was with fashion retail outlet Sussan as second in-charge and occasional store manager for 14 years.

“From March 2020, things changed rapidly for us. Craig was retrenched from his position at Telstra. At the end of July, and as a direct result of COVID, I was offered less hours or retrenchment from my position at Sussan. So, on the 1st of September 2020, I accepted retrenchment. It was then we both came to the realisation neither of us had a job!”

Fiona said after seeing a news story about the shortage of fruit pickers, they decided it would be a great opportunity to get out and travel and be paid.

“Having never participated in this type of work and to test the waters, we enquired with local avocado farmers around our area but with no luck. We then applied online with Costa Berries as there was need for pickers in the Coffs Harbour area, at Corindi.

“Within a couple of weeks, we’d bought our very first caravan and by October long weekend 2020 we left our home in Taree. We left our younger son in charge of the house and we hit the road and headed for the Costa farm at Corindi.”

After working for two months in Corindi, including as pickers, driving trucks and as assistant supervisors, the couple moved to the Costa Berry farm at Tumbarumba arriving in mid December 2020.

Craig’s previous work involved travelling across the country, training and supporting Telstra’s internal construction workforce across all regions.

Fiona said in her previous role, she managed inventories, staff and customers.

“Here at Costa, I manage a small crew, inventories and diverse picking crews from various nationalities. The roles have similarities, although my dress for work uniform differs significantly. I now have a pair of steel cap boots and dress for farm work, not retail fashion.

“At Tumbarumba, I supervised my own crew, while Craig again drove the trucks. We both gained a lot of invaluable experience at Tumbarumba, formed new friendships with amazing people and visited beautiful locations across the Snowy Mountains region.”

After finishing the Tumbarumba season, the couple headed home to Taree for an eight-week break before heading to Far North Queensland for the Costa berry harvest on the Atherton Tablelands.

“The opportunity to work and live in FNQ is one we will never regret embracing. There are so many things to see and places to visit including The Daintree, Port Douglas, Trinity Beach and numerous visits to Cairns.”

“We have met so many wonderful people on our journey. Friends, new and old are so envious of our lifestyle. The flexible work arrangements provide many opportunities to explore regions close to the harvest locations we have been too.”

Craig and Fiona have now done full circle and returned to Corindi for the 2021-22 blueberry season.

Coalition Government delivers visa for farmers

View all articles

The Federal Liberal National Government has delivered an Australian Agriculture visa that will address the immediate workforce shortage facing Australia’s farmers, and support the ongoing structural change in the agriculture workforce.

The Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA) has consistently called for the introduction of a dedicated agriculture visa which will allow workers from overseas to travel to Australia and work in agriculture. The Australian Agriculture visa will complement existing initiatives to recruit Australians, and the Pacific Mobility programs.

“As some of the largest employers in the horticulture sector, AFPA members have been developing a 10-year outlook on their workforce requirements. From this work, we know that developing a productive and returning workforce is key for all horticulture employers and the new visa announced today delivers another important pathway for growers to tap into a returning workforce” said AFPA Chair, Anthony Di Pietro.

The Australian Agriculture visa will be available to all agriculture sectors, including horticulture where the largest number of roles are short term, seasonal roles supporting the harvest of fresh fruit and vegetables.

“It’s pleasing to see that the new Australian Agriculture visa seems to have taken into account that the agriculture sector has a variety of different workforce needs and is looking to accommodate all of these. In horticulture, we have a number of short term, highly seasonal roles that often see workers move to follow work. This is different to other sectors, like meat processing, which may have work in the same processing facility throughout a year,” said Mr Di Pietro.

Outlined in today’s announcement is that a key component of the Australian Agriculture visa is the need for robust employer standards to ensure the welfare of future visa holders.

“Employers will be required to meet high standards to sponsor workers on this visa, and this is critical to the success of the Australian Agriculture visa. The AFPA have consistently advocated that this visa must focus on ensuring compliance with employment standards to ensure worker welfare and will continue to support this as a key part of the visa’s design” said Mr Di Pietro.

An initial challenge in operationalising the Seasonal Agriculture Worker visa will be accessing the required additional quarantine capacity to support arrivals of critical harvest and agriculture workers into Australia.

“Queensland and Tasmania have led the way in supporting the agriculture industry with quarantine arrangements and capacity, including on-farm quarantine, to support the arrival of workers from the Pacific. Now that we have an agriculture visa and expansion of the Pacific programs, we need all states and territory governments to work with industry to develop quarantine solutions,” said Mr Di Pietro.

Media Contact: Michael Rogers – CEO, AFPA: 0409 648 911

About the AFPA – The Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA) is made up of Australia’s key fresh produce growers and suppliers, including Costa. The AFPA represents half the industry turnover of the Australian fresh produce sector – $4.5 billion of the $9.1 billion total; 1,000 plus growers through commercial arrangements and more than 15,000 direct employees through peak harvest, and up to 25,000 in the
grower network.

Graduate Program 2022

View all articles

Designed to provide career pathways and opportunities for people passionate about the future of sustainable fresh food production, Costa’s 2022 Graduate Program is now open for applications.

Costa Group, Australia’s leading grower, packer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables, offers an 18-month Graduate Program which provides exposure across key areas of the Costa Group business including agronomy, logistics and sales and marketing.

Costa’s HR Manager Carl Phillips said providing opportunities for graduates was key to the future success of the industry as a whole.
“Our focus is on Sustainable Commercial Farming and a key element of that is our people. We are investing in the leaders of the future and providing clear career pathways,” Mr Phillips said.

“We also have a strong commitment to our regions and we support a number of university scholarships, particularly targeting students who live in the many regional communities in which we operate. The Graduate Program is a natural extension of this investment in education.”

The Costa Graduate Program provides intensive hands-on experience across a multitude of key departments within the Costa Group over an 18-month period. Rotations in different regions and business categories will include time in our nurseries, glasshouses, packing sheds, farms and agronomy teams.

Graduates will gain an insight into what happens after the product leaves the farm through exposure to the sales and marketing functions based in our Melbourne head office, as well as access to senior leaders.

The Program is open to anyone who is in the final year or finished a Bachelor or postgraduate degree in agriculture, science, agribusiness, horticulture or business. Applications are open from August 1 to September 13.

Industry calls for agriculture visa trial

View all articles

The horticulture sector is calling for a trial of the newly announced Seasonal Agriculture Worker visa to commence before year end.

The Australian Fresh Produce Alliance (AFPA), of which Costa is a member, has previously welcomed the announcement of a dedicated Seasonal Agriculture Worker visa, which will reduce industry’s reliance on working holiday makers and allow the industry to better develop a productive, returning harvest workforce.

“As some of the largest employers in the sector, AFPA members have been developing a 10-year outlook on their workforce requirements. A long term outlook reduces the reliance on backpackers and focuses on better pathways for employing Australians, workers from the Pacific and new Seasonal Agriculture Worker visa holders,” said AFPA CEO, Michael Rogers.

The AFPA is calling on the government to implement a trial of the Seasonal Agriculture Worker visa and focus on a group of registered employers, prospective visa holders and sending countries. A smaller scale trial will also enable industry to work with relevant agencies in managing quarantine pathways for Seasonal Agriculture Worker visa holders travelling to Australia.

“It is critical that we implement the Seasonal Agriculture Worker Visa this year to provide additional workers for the summer harvest, and to support the structural workforce changes underway in the sector. A trial will allow the Government’s commitment to be implemented quickly while also testing the parameters of the new visa program,” said Mr Rogers.

The closure of Australia’s international borders has reduced the number of working holiday makers in the country from over 140,000 at the beginning of the pandemic to approximately 37,000. During the same period, more than 9,000 Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme visa holders from the Pacific have filled critical workforce shortages in horticulture, meat processing, manufacturing and accommodation sectors.

“Right now, there are more Seasonal Worker Program visa holders working in horticulture than there have ever been before. This clearly demonstrates industry’s changing direction to a more reliable, productive and returning workforce model. Moving forward, the Seasonal Agriculture Worker visa will be a key complement to workers from the Pacific and is critical in reducing the over reliance on working holiday makers.

“The Australian fresh produce industry is in the midst of a workforce restructure and adoption of new workforce planning and management. An increase in the Pacific programs as well as the new Seasonal Agriculture Worker Visa will form the backbone of the harvest workforce and lead to increases in productivity, remuneration and stability over the long term. This is good for growers and good for workers,” said Mr Rogers.

Media Contact: Michael Rogers, CEO, 0409 648 911

Costa finalises Select Fresh Group acquisition

View all articles

Costa has finalised the acquisition of Select Fresh Group (SFG), a leading Western Australian based wholesale distribution business specialising in the supply of fresh produce to food service and independent supermarkets.

SFG will sit within the Costa Farms and Logistics business unit and will expand Costa’s offering into Western Australia.

“SFG increases our supplier grower base and provides a strong platform to extend our supply relationship with national customers particularly in the catering and meal kit segments,” Damian Bourne, General Manager Costa Farms and Logistics, said.

SFG trades under two operating entities — Select Fresh and Membrillo.   Select Fresh supplies fresh produce to tender based customers with high volume requirements and Membrillo supplies high quality fresh produce to the independent retail channel for resale to the public.

Mr Bourne said Select Fresh and Membrillo operate from two modern, custom-designed, climate-controlled warehouse facilities located in the Perth Markets. Both facilities have additional capacity to accommodate the future growth of the business.

“SFG has long-standing relationships with a network of growers providing year-round sourcing strength and it also has strong relationships with independent retailers,” he said.

“The business has a loyal and dedicated workforce comprised of 55 full time, part time and casual employees and we welcome them into the Costa family.”

2PH Farms acquisition and capital raising

View all articles

Costa Group Holdings Limited has entered into binding agreements (subject to the satisfaction of customary conditions) with a group of companies (Pressler entities) to acquire the business and assets of 2PH Farms Pty Ltd and its related entities (“2PH”), a Central Queensland based citrus grower for an upfront consideration of approximately $200 million in cash.

Costa will pay an additional $31 million in July 2023 for the purchase of the ‘Conaghans’ property, where a new citrus crop is currently being planted by 2PH, subject to certain conditions.

Costa has an established relationship with 2PH, having successfully marketed 2PH citrus for over 10 years in the Australian domestic market and both the domestic and export markets this calendar year .

The total upfront funding requirement is approximately $219 million (including stamp duty and transaction costs) and is to be funded with the proceeds of a fully underwritten pro rata accelerated renounceable entitlement offer (“PAITREO”) with retail rights trading to raise $190 million and existing debt facilities.

Further information is available at the Costa Investor Centre site.