New blueberry variety a ‘Delight’

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Costa operates a globally recognised Variety Improvement Program, developing new blueberry varieties which are licensed in regions including the Americas, Morocco, China, and South Africa.

Headquartered at Corindi on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, Australia, the program uses Costa’s extensive network of farms in mid latitude, low latitude, and low chill to mid-chill locations to select, evaluate and develop new varieties suitable for a range of global growing conditions, meeting both consumer and customer requirements.

Take a look at our new Delight blueberry variety, which is now being grown commercially on the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland. The variety has risen to prominence as a standout for flavour and fruit quality, with early season tendencies. It is particularly suited to low latitude environments.

Our new Delight blueberry variety is now being grown commercially on the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland. It is well suited to low latitude environments, and is a standout for flavour and fruit quality.

Modern Slavery Statement 2021

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As Australia’s leading producer of fresh fruit and vegetables and with international operations in China and Morocco, ensuring human rights are not only protected but also taking action to prevent modern slavery is fundamental to our business.

Our second Modern Slavery Statement, covering the financial year ending on 26 December 2021, outlines both the activity and progress we have made to mitigate, address and where possible improve our approach to human rights and modern slavery risks within our operation and across our supply chain.

While the global pandemic continued to disrupt and present new challenges in 2021, we remained committed to developing and enhancing the processes, policies, and actions we have in place to protect human rights. In our Australian partner grower base, for example, 98% were registered on Sedex in 2021 during their supply season.

Our key actions this year have included increased emphasis on identification of high-risk suppliers and remediation where issues arise, both within our own operations and in our supply chain.

We are focused on developing systems to measure our effectiveness and have dedicated new resources, such as a Group People Assurance Manager, to assist in this process. We have also put in place a multi-disciplinary working group to oversee our Modern Slavery response, which has made steady progress in education and training across the business.

We look forward to building on the actions outlined in this statement.

Super sweet strawberries hit supermarket shelves

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Costa Berries Tasmania in partnership with Driscoll’s Australia is undertaking a commercial trial of a new super sweet strawberry variety, Driscoll’s Zara.

Costa Berries Tasmania Regional Manager Cameron Folder said: “The Zara variety of strawberry has been in production at our East Devonport strawberry farm as an on-farm commercial trial since the start of our berry season.”

Marketed as “Driscoll’s Sweetest Batch”, the strawberry is a premium variety that delivers a sweeter and stronger flavour.

It was first commercialised in the United Kingdom in 2017 and has won several international awards due to its taste and quality.

Internationally, Driscoll’s Zara is sold as a premium variety in Europe, the Middle East, Canada and China.

Zara consistently scores better in quality tests for its appearance, taste, and texture.

Costa currently has close to one hectare of land under production of the Driscoll’s Zara variety with discussions under way to expand production on Costa’s strawberry farms and other Driscoll’s growers’ farms in North and North West Tasmania.

As a commercial trial, limited quantities of “Sweetest Batch” strawberries can be purchased from Woolworths supermarkets in larger urban centres in Hobart and Launceston. They are also sold interstate through a small number of Coles and Woolworths stores in Victoria.

The trial also extends to a select number of Sydney market agents for the independent sector.

“Production of the Zara strawberry represents an exciting opportunity for Tasmania’s berry industry,” Mr Folder said.

As a premium variety, there is potential to add value to the state’s berry crop and continue the industry’s growth as a significant contributor to Tasmania’s export income.

A report produced by Deloitte Access Economics, ‘The economic contribution of the Tasmanian fresh produce sector’ in December 2020, estimated the Tasmanian berry industry as worth around $200 million per annum; greater than the apple and cherry industry combined.

Costa is the largest producer of berries in Tasmania. At peak harvest this season, Costa employed over 560 locals injecting more than $1 million in wages on a weekly basis into the local economy.

The business also invests over $44 million in local goods and services each year, indirectly supporting hundreds of other local jobs.

Sustainability Report 2021

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Costa Group Holdings Limited, Australia’s leading grower, packer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables, has released its 2021 Sustainability Report.

Our 2021 Sustainability Report provides key data on our actions across our key Sustainable Commercial Farming pillars of the Environment, Economic, People and Community.

Key highlights in the report include:
• Commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
• Further reporting under the TCFD framework – identification of short, medium and long term
climate related risks and opportunities.
• Reported metrics – greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, total energy produced,
water use by category, total water use, kilograms of produce grown per ML of water used.
• Update on water efficiency and renewable energy projects.
• Initiatives to reduce supply chain and packaging waste.
• Health and safety key data.
• People key data.

Costa CEO and Managing Director Sean Hallahan said Sustainable Commercial Farming was integral to Costa’s business model and our ability to deliver on our growth strategy and produce superior returns for shareholders.

“Our approach targets the four key pillars of Environment, Economic, People and Community and our Sustainability Report covers our progress in these areas. It recognises their importance to not only our commercial performance through addressing climate risk by utilising protected cropping and reducing emissions, improving yield and production efficiency, reducing supply chain waste and being an industry employer of choice, but also the contribution we make to providing millions of people with healthy and nutritious fresh produce in the most sustainable way possible,” Mr Hallahan said.

“Costa has sought to establish a quantitative target which we believe will create long term commercial resilience and will ensure Costa makes a meaningful contribution to addressing the environmental and financial risks of climate change. The result of this is a commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“To assist in progressing towards this commitment, Costa plans to pledge to the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi) and subsequently work with SBTi to have our emission reduction targets validated and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“Work will be undertaken in 2022 to quantify our major waste streams as a prelude to setting waste
reduction targets commencing from 2023. Costa is targeting all forms of waste in our efforts to
achieve meaningful and lasting reductions in the level of waste we generate.”

View our Sustainability Report 2021.

Scam alert

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Costa has been made aware of fraudulent scam letters being sent to people which purport to offer the person in receipt of the letter an unsolicited job with Costa. The letters may also seek a payment from the recipient in exchange for the person being offered the job.

Please be aware that Costa does not make unsolicited job offers and nor do we seek payment from anyone we offer employment to.

If you receive such a letter, please ignore it as it is a fraud and a scam.

Costa rallies for Tongan colleagues

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With a large contingent of Tongan employees, Costa has rallied to provide funds and goods to support the relief effort in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami which hit the island nation in January.

The Costa business committed $25,000 to the relief effort and, in collaboration with Coles, has coordinated a shipping container filled with food, water, household and personal care supplies.

During a recent Costa Care Forum, two of our Tongan employees, Albert Chan and Tamefuna Vi, provided a first-hand account of the impact on our Tongan workforce and their families and the type of assistance most needed in their home country.  This inspired many of our team to take action, resulting in the shipment.

The container will begin its 30-day voyage to Tonga on Saturday. On arrival the goods will be distributed to Costa employees’ families across Tonga.

“We have more than 300 Tongan employees, many of whom have been with Costa for more than two years and who are all well and truly part of our Costa family,” Costa CEO and Managing Director Sean Hallahan said.

“Through our Costa Care Forum, we liaised closely with our employees on how we could best support their families.  We are also very appreciative of the support from Coles in getting this shipment together.”

In addition, Costa staff raised $4270 to go towards the relief effort. The majority of this funding has gone to the Red Cross Tonga Earthquake Eruption and Tsunami Response.

In response, the Red Cross thanked Costa staff for their support.

“The funds you raised have enabled Australian Red Cross to send water containers, mosquito nets, solar lanterns, tarps and shelter kits to bolster relief supplies already in the country.

“We are also providing our local partner Tonga Red Cross with technical support as well as support for their operating costs.

“With your support, we have raised the funds needed to support Tonga Red Cross to continue meeting the immediate needs of communities affected by the disaster. Thank you for the life-changing difference you have made,” Ashlea Watkins, Community Fundraising Manager, Australian Red Cross.

Minister opens $80 million tomato glasshouses

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.