|About this Item||Subjects||Trees and Plants; Irrigation; Water
||Speakers||Perry Mrs Barbara
||Business||Private Members Statements
Mrs BARBARA PERRY (Auburn) [4.53 p.m.]: I am always pleased to highlight the many positive impacts of different cultures on our society. Today I want to throw the spotlight on a unique aspect of life in the Sydney region, where a rich cultural mix is certainly reaping significant benefits. I refer to the horticultural industry thriving in the Sydney Basin, an industry that supports more than 2,000 growers. Their combined efforts contribute $400 million a year to our regional economy, which is part of the total $1 billion agricultural industry thriving in the Sydney Basin. The remarkable force behind the success of this industry is people power—the growers who work hard to produce quality, fresh produce on our doorstep. They are innovative, entrepreneurial and very good at capturing new niche markets. They are also a remarkable group of people. Up to 80 per cent of them are from a non-English speaking background. For example, Indochinese growers have developed boutique crops such as snowpeas and cherry tomatoes. Lebanese growers have developed the Lebanese cucumber industry. The Maltese have broken new ground in hydroponic tomatoes and lettuce.
Overall, there are more than 400 Arabic, 400 Chinese, 600 Maltese, 120 Italian and 60 Vietnamese market gardeners in the industry. Fortunately, this diverse range of cultures and interests is passed on to consumers in Sydney and outside the region. Our tastes in horticulture have changed as the influence of these cultures has grown. Gone are the days when the typical Australian family sat down to a dinner of simply meat and three veg every night. Today 90 per cent of all Asian and western leafy vegetables grown in the Sydney area are enjoyed by local residents. Consumers can buy and eat fresh, locally grown bok choy, bitter melon, choy sam and okra, as well as the more traditional potatoes, carrots and beans. As with all areas of agriculture today, our market gardeners are constantly striving to boost productivity and long-term environmental sustainability.
The Government has an important role to play in providing information and training, and keeping industry up to date on research and development. This includes catering for different languages, particularly when dealing with critical issues such as occupational health and safety, chemical use and pest control. Multilingual courses provided by NSW Agriculture help our market growers stay on top of these developments. The latest in a steady roll-out of these courses is a water management training course for Arabic-speaking greenhouse vegetable producers in Sydney, which starts soon. There are about 500 hydroponic greenhouse vegetable producers in New South Wales, which includes about 400 Arabic-speaking growers. Greenhouse production is a dynamic industry that is growing by up to 10 per cent each year. Therefore, a course such as this can make all the difference for small businesses wanting to remain competitive and profitable.
The training workshops help growers who want to upgrade their traditional irrigation crop-management practices to more sophisticated greenhouse and hydroponic systems. The aim is for higher yields, better overall productivity and more efficient use of resources. The courses are taught by bilingual agriculture officers and all training materials have been translated into Arabic. We have seen similar success across the full range of multilingual training courses provided by the Government. For example, more than 1,900 growers from Chinese, Lebanese, Maltese, Vietnamese and Cambodian communities have attended NSW Agriculture field days or workshops in the Sydney region in the past three years. Another 60 growers have completed water management courses in Khmer, Vietnamese, Chinese and Arabic in the Sydney Basin area since 2003. An extra 30 of these courses are expected to be offered over the next six months. I am proud of the progress made so far and I look forward to updating the House on further progress in this area.