Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Family fruit connections revived

A visit to the Goulburn Valley by two Singaporean fruit buyers rekindled some old memories for a well known fruit exporting family.

May 13, 2014 3:13am

Chris Georgopoulos and Michael Zurcas with Linda Ong, centre and Guek Hong from Benelux Flowers and Food.

A visit to the Goulburn Valley by two Singaporean fruit buyers rekindled some old memories for a well known fruit exporting family.

Linda Ong and Guek Hong were standing in the fruit packing shed of Chris Georgopoulos when they discovered his connection to the Zurcas family who were major exporters in the heyday of the fruit industry.

In particular, they both remembered the family patriarch Bill Zurcas, whose energy, drive and outgoing nature were well known in the industry.

And it seems, overseas.

‘‘I remember I was having a a discussion in my office with Bill, but his voice was so loud and boisterous, that my bosses in the next room thought I was having a fight and they came charging in and said: ‘Are you all right’,’’ Ms Hong said.

‘‘That is the way Bill is.

‘‘Lots of passion and gusto.

‘‘Zurcas was one of only two brands in Shepparton that was associated with pears, and when you mention the names you know what it stands for — quality and good pears,’’ Ms Hong said.

‘‘He was very passionate and he called a spade a spade.

‘‘There was no hiding. He did a lot for the industry.’’

The connection was discovered when Mr Georgopoulos mentioned his connection with the Zurcas family. He is married to Mary Zurcas.

He phoned Michael Zurcas, Bill’s nephew, to join them at the packing shed to share some memories.

Bill Zurcas, who migrated to Australia in 1938 without any money, established a fruit growing and export business and invested in other Shepparton businesses.

He died in 2009.

Ms Hong is a former marketing officer with the Australian Trade Commission and received the Australia Medal for her services to horticulture.

Now she works in Singapore for Benelux Flowers and Food.

She retired from Austrade about 2012.

She remarked that the business was not just about fruit, but relationships and connections.

Her employer Linda Ong, who also remembered the Zurcas family, agreed that knowing where their produce came from was important in trade relationships.

‘‘This is not only a piece of fruit, but the history behind it is important,’’ Ms Ong said.

‘‘If I understand who the person who is growing the fruit, it puts me at ease, because I know the values and practices where the fruit comes from.

‘‘In the fruit business it is a people business. When you build a relationship it is like a big family.’’

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