FOR farmer Wayne Cox from Coominya near Brisbane, cruising is both part of his livelihood and, prior to the pandemic, a much loved pastime for him and his wife.

Now, Wayne is counting the cost of the suspension of cruising on his business, Wivenhoe Hydroponics and on the Brisbane markets generally. Wayne previously supplied large quantities of lettuce that ended up on our ships.

He discussed the situation in this interview:

“The whole thing has affected us in a lot of ways because it is hard to get workers and the orders have fallen off. It has affected us a lot. It means we can’t go away on a holiday. 

What did cruising represent for your business?

It would be ten per cent. (Wholesaler) Select Fresh was was using our lettuce on the ships and so we have lost all that. 

I said to a bloke this morning that losing the cruise industry has affected the whole market. It is not just my business. The whole market is affected because of the amount of produce that you (usually) buy there. It has just made a massive impact on the market. The market is just dead you know. And I know because I had an insight into what was going on cruise ships. 

And you have been affected by other things. You can’t get people to pick the crop?

That’s right. It is a pretty big problem. We had four casuals working for us and now we only have one and she only comes twice a week instead of four times a week because she has another job. She only comes to help us because she knows we need help. And we have had to wind back our business because we can’t do it. We are losing everywhere.

Last year (2019), or before coronavirus we were producing six to eight pallets twice a week of lettuce and bok choy and now we would be doing maybe one and a half pallets if we’re lucky. 

Is this the toughest you’ve known it to be?

Yes, it is absolutely devastating. Before this, we were going forward, always every year it was better and better but now we are finding it very hard to get on top. The cruising industry … I can’t believe that they are not letting them start up again. It’s crazy. I was telling a fella this morning, what’s wrong with Queenslanders getting on a ship and going to Airlie Beach or Cairns? You are not going anywhere out of Queensland even or, as we used to do, the three days just out on the ocean. 

The amount of stuff that even just P&O would take out of the markets was unbelievable. It comes back and affects all growers in that section. It’s basically a floating restaurant and that’s what you’re going for — the food and the drink. It is amazing how much it would affect the market in a big way.”