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Growers not giving up on SPC Ardmona

Cobram fruit growers in disarray but not defeated, after Federal Government’s decision not to contribute $25 million to SPC Ardmona.

TONI BRIENT February 5, 2014 4:20am

The Federal Government’s decision not to contribute $25million to SPC Ardmona to keep the company afloat has left Cobram fruit growers in disarray but not defeated, they say.

SPC Ardmona asked the Victorian government for the same contribution, which Premier Denis Napthine did not accept or reject during his visit to the company’s Shepparton plant on Friday.

RJ Cornish director James Cornish from Cobram said he was one of SPC Ardmona’s largest peach and pear suppliers.

‘‘I guess to say we’re disappointed is an understatement,’’ Mr Cornish said.

‘‘I thought SPC had a good case.’’

Victorian Peach and Apricot Growers Association president and Cobram orchardist Tony Latina said while the lack of financial support from government was disappointing, it didn’t signal the end of the industry.

Mr Latina said it would be up to SPC Ardmona to plan its next move, including the future of the cannery.

The Latina Fruits director said the lack of funding would be felt by fruit growers in Cobram.

‘‘It wont be as severe as Shepparton, but it still will have an impact,’’ he said.

‘‘For the largest growers, like RJ Cornish, it will have a big impact.’’

Mr Cornish said Cobram growers had already survived a round of SPC Ardmona’s cost-cutting measures, and was confident growers could continue to thrive.

‘‘There’s already been impact with a lot of growers struck off the list last year,’’ he said.

‘‘I sold land and knocked orchards out.’’

Mr Cornish said growers could adapt by growing fresh fruit instead of cannery varieties, for example.

Mr Latina said many local growers had already begun adapting, with the government’s latest decision proving the agricultural sector was ‘‘not getting any support’’.

He said low import tariffs offered little protection to local farmers, and contributed to SPC Ardmona’s financial difficulty.

‘‘(The government) seem to be turning a cold shoulder on us,’’ he said.

‘‘Every other country in the world looks after agriculture more.

‘‘Here in Australia we always seem to be fending for ourselves.’’

However, Mr Latina said Cobram farmers who supplied to SPC Ardmona should be optimistic about their futures.

‘‘I’m not alarmed,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ll wait and see what happens.

‘‘We won’t know until (SPC Ardmona) review everything properly.’

See more SPC Ardmona stories in this week’s Cobram Courier.

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