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APAL’s Future Orchards® kicks off with the return of almost $500,000 of levies to Hort Innovation

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From 1 July 2021, APAL has taken over funding the industry’s highly regarded extension program Future Orchards®. To mark the occasion APAL has returned almost $500,000 of apple and pear grower levy funding to Hort Innovation.

“Over the past 15 years APAL in partnership with AgFirst has built Future Orchards into a program that is greatly valued by our industry and envied by peers,” said Phil Turnbull, APAL CEO.

APAL’s rigorous project management and commitment to delivering a program that is designed by and for apple and pear growers has enabled ongoing project improvements, smarter content delivery, use of technology and has tapped into APAL’s networks to access resources from across Australia and around the globe.

The returned funds represent the cumulative improvements across the most recent five-year funding period.

“It’s extremely pleasing to be able to return the funds to the apple and pear industry as we mark the conclusion of a long and successful project partnership with Hort Innovation,” said Phil.

From 1 July Future Orchards will be funded by APAL’s commercial operations and will no longer rely on apple and pear grower levies.

“It’s an incredible position to be in and one that few other industry bodies in Australia can match,” said Phil.

Hort Innovation manages the collection and investment of levies on behalf of almost 40 commodity groups. The selection of projects for funding is guided by Hort Innovation’s Strategic Advisory Investment Panels (SIAP). Funding recipients are required to prepare regular milestone reports for Hort Innovation and acquit expenditure.

“These disciplines are essential to good governance and financial accountability, and ensure transparency to levy payers and Australian tax-payers who contribute matching funding,” said Phil.
Phil said after several low-revenue years, the returned savings would provide an important boost to the Apple and Pear Fund’s coffers.

“Levy contributions vary with the size of the crop, but R&D projects are funded over several years so there is always a risk of over-committing the fund’s resources,” said Phil.

The Apple and Pear Fund’s 2019/20 annual report shows the R&D fund ended last financial year with a deficit of $367,939, and the latest Annual Investment Plan (AIP) provided for industry feedback does not anticipate being able to fund new projects until at least 2022.

“The money we have returned to Hort Innovation today will address a good portion of the fund’s shortfall and hopefully see new and continuing projects receive Hort Innovation funding grants sooner,” said Phil.

“We look forward to continuing to deliver our remaining Hort Innovation projects and to growing the value and reach of our Future Orchards program,” said Phil.

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