Extreme weather events this year have highlighted the need for netting to protect against hail, sunburn, birds and flying foxes. APAL’s Head of Government Relations and Advocacy Jeremy Griffith has been busy developing a submission to Government for a program of achievable support for growers to protect their crops and improve long term sustainability.
Weather and drought are severely impacting Australia’s apple and pear industry
The Australian apple and pear industry is struggling due to ongoing hail damage, extreme heat, droughts, bird and flying fox infestations. Repeated hail storm damage in SA has for the second year in a row devastated the industry.
Historically, unlike many other industries in the agricultural and manufacturing sector, the apple and pear industry has received little or no support. It provides almost (99.3 per cent) all of Australia’s apple and pear requirements and is the highest value fruit industry in Australia, larger than citrus, bananas, and table grapes.
Apples and pears are a healthy and environmentally friendly product produced by many family businesses in rural and regional areas.
Netting will help future-proof the industry and improve Australia’s food security
One highly effective method for protecting the industry is the use of orchard netting. Nets protect against hail, sunburn, bird and flying fox infestations, while reducing water requirements by up 20 per cent. It also improves the quality and yield of orchards, which is essential for developing export markets.
Currently, the majority of orchards are not covered by netting and the initial up-front cost ($60,000 per hectare) is a major impediment to growers.
State and Federal Governments can play a major part in protecting the industry by developing a National Netting Program that would:
- Improve Australia’s food security by protecting against hail, frost, bird and flying fox infestation, wind damage, fruit sunburn from extreme heat, while reducing water usage by up to 20 per cent,
- Assist in developing export markets by improving both quality and fruit yields, and
- Directly support small businesses and employment in regional areas.
1. Establish netting grant program over 10 years
The benefits of ensuring orchards are protected are significant but require a significant upfront cost to achieve. It is estimated that well over 50 per cent of orchards are currently not protected.
2. Accelerated depreciation for apple and pear netting
The Federal Government has been providing immediate tax deductions for numerous primary producer costs such as fencing and water facilities such as dams, tanks, bores, irrigation channels, pumps, water towers, windmills etc.
The expansion of this program to netting for apple and pear production would provide a significant incentive to growers to install netting.
3. Continue low interest loans via the Rural Investment Corporation
The current Farm Investment Fund which provides low-interest loans over a 10-year period are very beneficial and should be expanded.
APAL will be meeting with Government to set out the benefits of ensuring orchards are protected and seeking extensions to existing schemes and the provision of grants for netting.
In the lead up to the May federal election growers can assist by making sure their local MPs are aware of the value in regional jobs and exports of protecting orchards and industry viability and the high priority of changes required to assist growers to do so.
APAL is developing a fuller list of key election priorities which will be shared closer to the date.
For more information, contact Jeremy Griffith, Head of Government Relations and Advocacy
03 9329 3511