THE federal government has not heeded calls from apple growers that their industry is in crisis and needs urgent assistance.
A $22 million contribution to the proposed Aussie Apple Accord was notable in its absence from Tuesday’s budget, despite strong industry lobbying and meetings with agriculture minister Joe Ludwig prior to the release of the budget.
Apple and Pear Australia Limited and the NSW Farmers’ Association are disappointed with the decision not to contribute to the $124 million package, which was designed to increase productivity and minimise job losses in the face of apple imports.
Farmers’ Association vice president and Nashdale apple grower Peter Darley said he worried for the future of the industry.
“I’m not surprised, particularly with the current government, that they’re not supporting an industry under threat due to imports. I think [the Apple Accord] will have to be put in mothballs now,” he said.
The introduction of imported apples from China and New Zealand presents the greatest concern for growers, who fear they cannot compete unless Australian orchards can become more productive.
“We’ve never seen such low prices as we’re receiving in the market at present. I’ve never seen the industry in such a state,” Mr Darley said.
Some budget announcements were welcomed by farming groups, including an investment of more than $500 million in various biosecurity measures, some to be delivered over seven years.
That includes nearly $380 million for a new post-entry quarantine facility in Melbourne.