Help hope for hail-hit

By Country News on December 03, 2015

A national fruit development body is working up a marketing campaign to assist growers hit by hail storms that have caused millions of dollars in damage in recent weeks.

Although the campaign will not help some growers whose crops were wiped out, it might assist those who will have to try to sell their fruit on the fresh markets.

Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell is trying to arrange for Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford to visit the Goulburn Valley to meet with affected growers.

‘‘The minister (Jaala Pulford) has told me she expects to be in Shepparton mid-week in two weeks, and she’s given me a commitment that she will make every effort to meet with a group of orchardists when she’s there.

‘‘She’s made a commitment to try and get orchardists together to meet with them and discuss what’s happened with the hail storm, so we can move forward from here.’’

Apple and Pear Australia market development manager Oliva Tait said a market campaign was being developed which would explain, in a humorous way, that superficially marked fruit was still good to eat.

She said they would also be appealing to the good nature of consumers in supporting growers hit by weather damage.

She said they were developing fictitious characters, including ‘‘Guru’’ the pear who would ask for consumers not to be superficial.

‘‘True beauty lies within,’’ is the mantra for the Hailstone Heroes campaign.

Ms Tait said there were still many unknowns, because the fruit was yet to ripen and she could not say what volume of affected fruit would be available.

APAL has opened discussions with major food retailers and Ms Tait said the response had been encouraging.

Prices would not be discounted under the campaign.

Fruit Growers Victoria estimates more than 500ha of Shepparton orchards, worth tens of millions of dollars, were 100 per cent damaged by the two recent hail storms.

FGV industry development officer Peter Bursac is visiting all growers affected by the storms and will collate all information to take to the state and federal governments.

‘‘These people, they need to survive financially ... most of them were hit in October, and the hail came in the same direction (last week),’’ Mr Bursac said.

‘‘After the first hail, the growers affected paid for thinning, for an operation to remove those damaged fruit; for that they paid between $30000 and $300000.

‘‘ ‘‘So those people have lost profit ... they will need to invest more to remove those fruit, and they need some kind of financial help.’’

The fruit industry representative said two things had to happen —— the growers needed financial support and— they needed help to invest in hail-proof netting for the orchards.

‘‘They need to make their decision, the growers, but we are here to help them and provide information,’’ Mr Bursac said.

‘‘We can support them, we’re collecting data and speaking to some politicians. We will try to help them ... but it’s a disaster.’’

■More on page 2.

By Country News on December 03, 2015

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