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New 15-year plan for fruit growers

Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh launched a 15-year plan for the Goulburn Valley fruit industry on Tuesday, which will focus on opening up new export markets and helping fruit businesses to diversify and expand.

March 13, 2014 4:25am

Minister for Agriculture and Food Security Peter Walsh.


‘‘The Goulburn Valley Fruit Industry Growing Roadmap will underpin the future success of the Goulburn Valley fruit industry, including a new horticulture Centre of Excellence, a $16 million concessional loans package and business planning program,’’ Mr Walsh said.

The roadmap was released alongside the Goulburn Valley Industry and Employment Plan, which was launched by Deputy Premier Peter Ryan and State Member for Shepparton Jeanette Powell.

‘‘The Victorian Coalition Government recognises the importance of the Goulburn Valley’s fruit industry, which currently produces 90 per cent of Australia’s processed fruit. Horticulture contributes to 30 per cent of the region’s value of agricultural production, compared with 31 per cent for dairy,’’ Mr Walsh said.

‘‘We have already acted to help secure a long-term future for SPC Ardmona and the roadmap will now ensure that Goulburn Valley fruit growing businesses have clear direction moving forward.’’

Mr Walsh said the new Horticulture Centre of Excellence in Tatura would host new roles of principal scientist, business development manager and industry development officer.

‘‘Our scientists will undertake leading horticulture research and development focusing on consumers’ trends in Asia, a fast-growing export market for the industry,’’ he said.

The roadmap has been welcomed by Victorian Farmers Federation Shepparton Horticulture Branch president Rien Silverstein.

‘‘We’re glad to see the Victorian Government is willing to tackle the tough issues, rather than just washing their hands of it all,’’ Mrs Silverstein said.

‘‘The State Government’s contribution of $16 million in concessional loans for farmers willing to buy up unwanted fruit blocks is crucial to the plan. It helps growers who want to leave the industry and creates an incentive for those wishing to expand and diversify their businesses.

‘‘Ultimately we want to grow the region, our export opportunities and jobs.

‘‘And that’s exactly what the government has committed to helping us achieve.’’

Mrs Silverstein said while the VFF and others have been fighting for the future of the processed fruit industry, it should not be forgotten that the bulk of the valley’s fruit goes into fresh markets locally and overseas.

‘‘We’ve got 440 apple, pear and stone fruit growers in the Goulburn Valley, who produce 250 000 to 300 000 tonnes of fruit for fresh markets each year,’’ she said.

‘‘Finding new markets for this fruit is crucial to our future and the hundreds of workers and businesses that rely on us.

‘‘Our hope is that the Centre for Excellence becomes a one-stop shop for growers wanting to develop new export market opportunities.

‘‘We need help to deal with the vast array of red tape, AQIS export fees and protocols that many of us struggle to deal with especially when it comes to new markets.

‘‘The Tatura centre’s existing work on developing new varieties is crucial and we would like to see more Federal Government support for this vital research work.”

Mr Walsh said a total of $170 million worth of Victorian horticulture was exported to North Asia in 2012-13, a 30 per cent increase on the previous year, which confirmed Victoria should continue to have confidence in the industry.

‘‘The Centre of Excellence will also act as a regional hub for horticulture industry development, and will help improve co-ordination between growers and governments as we tackle issues such as expanding market access,’’ the Minister said.

Mr Walsh said the Coalition Government was committed to assisting Goulburn Valley stone and pome fruit growers take advantage of emerging export and domestic opportunities.

He said concessional loans would be offered to support farm businesses which purchase the properties of fruit growers affected by the recent downturn.

The loans will be offered from July 1 this year by Rural Finance Corporation at a concessional rate of 4.5 per cent over three years.

For inquiries about the Goulburn Valley Concessional Loans program contact Rural Finance Corporation on 1800 260 425 or go to www.ruralfinance.com.au/

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