OUR SAY: Orchardists net vital subsidies

ORCHARDISTS are a tough breed, they’ve got to be. 

Every day is a challenge when you live on the land and face uncertain weather, rising energy bills, fluctuations in the market and the threat of pests destroying your produce.

Yesterday, orchardists in the Orange region were thrown an enormous lifeline when told they could access subsidies from the state government’s $4 million flying fox netting program.

Orchardists have spent years looking for a solution to the flying fox problem, also known as fruit bats, that has cost them millions of dollars in lost fruit.

Of course the bats have not just left a trail of damaged fruit behind them, they’ve also caused the orchardists an immeasurable amount of stress.

As orchardist Guy Gaeta said, he felt an enormous sense of relief when he heard he could access netting funding and he would no longer be forced to shoot the bats himself.

In fact, he and his family feel so positive about the future of their business that even his son has agreed to return home and build a future on the land.

Mr Gaeta was candid when he told how he had struggled with lack of sleep and stress, and how he battled to run his orchard by day and chase the bats away at night.

The overwhelming challenges of running an orchard are illustrated by the  fact that 35 years ago there were about 104 local orchards, now there are  only around 30.

Let’s hope breakthroughs such as this latest one help reinvigorate the industry and wipe out at least one of the problems our orchardists have long struggled with.

As member for Orange Andrew Gee, said agriculture/horticulture is something we do well in this area, let’s do everything we can to ensure it flourishes.

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