750,000 unwanted fruit trees are expected to be destroyed by spring in Victoria’s troubled Goulburn Valley region.
SPC Ardmona’s decision to no longer purchase fruit from the region has left growers with hundreds of tonnes of fruit that they are unable sell. The Weekly Times Now reports that the move will result in a 10 percent reduction of peach and pear trees in the state resulting in some growers operating at a loss, while others will have no income.
Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh announced a $2m rescue package last week which will give growers access to financial and personal counselling, as well as a program which will provide full time work for farmers and workers in the region.
"The Victorian Government is continuing to work with the Commonwealth to finalise arrangements for the Farm Finance concessional loans and we are also exploring further potential actions that can provide support to the Goulburn Valley's local economy," said Walsh.
The decision to announce the package is said to have been prompted by a report from Fruit Growers Victoria which outlined the dire situation that growers are now faced with.
The report estimates that orchard revenue will decrease by $10.4m, and over 1500 jobs will be lost. It also shows that 20 percent of businesses are unsalvageable, while a further 40 percent cannot gain access to loans as they are at their borrowing limit.
While the package has been welcomed by industry, Fruit Growers Victoria have said that growers will still need access to loans in order to remove unwanted trees before spring. Failure to destroy the trees will result in the attraction of fruit flies, pests and associated diseases to the area.
SPC Ardmona called upon the government for assistance in late April, and general manager Peter Kelly said that the company welcomes any efforts to assist growers.
"We welcome any efforts that will help our growers, and the food processing and horticulture industries as a whole, to overturn the reduced demand for Australian fruit caused by the influx of cheap, imported products," Kelly said.
"We … have been working around the clock preparing submissions to present to Government seeking appropriate intervention and support for SPCA and our remaining growers."