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Wanted: farmers to grow carrots

Food processor Kagome is searching for farmers prepared to grow carrots to supply a new line it has built at its Echuca factory.

GEOFF ADAMS January 14, 2014 4:10am

Chris Taylor from Kagome, Echuca, tasting carrot on a trial site in NSW.


The company has already established two 40ha plots of its own at Bunnaloo that will grow carrots early this year, for a concentrate line that is part of a $21million upgrade.

Carrots have been successfully grown on a trial plot using travelling sprinklers.

Kagome chief executive officer John Brady said his company had a preference for carrots grown within 100km of Echuca, because of the costs of transporting the product from other vegetable growing areas.

His staff have already assessed some district sites, looking at the soil, irrigation and land history, following an advertising campaign last year.

‘‘We may get one or two which comply, but we are still looking,’’ Mr Brady said.

Mr Brady acknowledged the strength of the Australian currency against the US dollar was a challenge but he didn’t want to develop a business strategy around currency values.

‘‘I believe scale will help in this regard,’’ he said.

The company has successfully trialled a modified tomato harvester to bring in the harvest.

Mr Brady said the Asian countries, including Japan, were big consumers of fruit and vegetable juices and the carrot concentrate would be geared at those markets, as well as being used for import replacement for Australia.

‘‘They are looking to nutritional value for a healthier outcome.

‘‘Sometimes it’s consumed in smaller concentrated bottles, almost like shots.

‘‘It’s not as popular in Australia but in other countries it’s a big market.

‘‘It’s changing slowly.

‘‘In Australia we seem to be addicted to sugar.’’

The upgrade will enable Kagome to also introduce smaller pouch packages for tomato products, to complement the existing lines which can package only 250kg bags.

 

The Victorian Government has contributed $500000 to the upgrade and acting Premier Peter Ryan said the investment would improve Kagome Australia’s competitiveness against foreign imports and allow the company to replace those with Victorian produce.

Mr Ryan said Kagome Australia, which purchased Echuca-based Cedenco in 2010 to secure Australia’s last tomato processor, was a strong contributor to the Victorian economy.

‘‘Kagome Australia already provides 45 jobs for rural Victorians, and their expansion will create a further 20 jobs,’’ Mr Ryan said.

‘‘The company also employs about an additional 300 people during its peak season from January through April.’’

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