Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

More fruit not a cure-all, growers say

SPC Ardmona has lifted prices for Goulburn Valley fruit growers for next year but some growers are saying it’s still not enough to offer long-term viability.

GEOFF ADAMS April 8, 2014 2:00pm

SPC Ardmona will require more pears next season and will pay more for them.

Buoyed by recent positive consumer reaction to SPC Ardmona’s declining international markets, the food processor has been asking growers for more fruit.

Recently SPC Ardmona met with suppliers and announced new prices and lifts in its quotas.

Victorian Peach and Apricot Grower Association president Tony Latina told his members the peach prices were not enough for growers to plant more trees.

‘‘I think the cannery does not understand the growers’ point of view,’’ Mr Latina said in a newsletter.

‘‘How can you replant your trees with no guarantees that SPC will still be there in five years? It seems to me that a two-year plan is all they have to offer at this moment.’’

Country News understands several growers made their feelings known at the recent supplier meetings.

The company has lifted its expected apricot intake by about 40 per cent and increased prices by about $30/tonne, while for pears, the intake was expected to increase from about 9000 to 12000 tonnes.

The processor was also lifting its peach tonnages by about 2000tonnes and offering an increase of about $20/tonne.

Fruit Growers Victoria general manager John Wilson said there was general disappointment expressed after the prices were announced.

‘‘Growers were of the view that it was not keeping up withescalating costs.’’

He said many of the the remaining 60 or 70 growers had their overall tonnages decreased last year so their overheads were now spread across reduced tonnages.

‘‘With the reduced volumes, many of the growers are having trouble meeting their fixed costs.

‘‘Some growers have expressed a concern that it doesn’t give them confidence to plant for the future,’’ Mr Wilson said.

SPC Ardmona is now facing the prospect of an uncertain future fruit supply.

In the past season, growers could not provide sufficient peaches to meet their demand.

The company has had to go back to some growers which had earlier been refused supply a year ago.

In March, SPC Ardmona announced a new deal with retailer Woolworths which will increase demand by an extra 24000 tonnes of fruit, tomatoes and navy beans.

In February, managing director Peter Kelly said the company was optimistic about the way forward.

‘‘It will take us a while to rebuild because a lot of trees were destroyed and lot of infrastructure taken out,’’ Mr Kelly said.

‘‘The sales results are remarkably improved.

‘‘The trick is not to become too carried away on a short-term result — but we are seeing this increasing support from retailers.’’

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