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AU: Harvest festival highlights economic value of Stanthorpe's apples and grapes
As Stanthorpe gets set to welcome tens of thousands of visitors to the region for the Apple and Grape Harvest Festival, growers say the contribution of agriculture is what underpins the local economy.
The biennial festival, which begins on Friday, has been running for 60 years as a promotion for the two produce items that have delivered so much for the local region.
"Agriculture is the backbone of Stanthopre's economy," President Greg Thouard said. "Agribusiness is what underpins the success of region. The contribution of the industry, particularly apples. As local one grower (Daniel Nicoletti, from Nicoletti Orchards) has quoted, 50,000 tonnes of apples are produced and picked here in Stanthorpe annually."
Local growers have begun harvesting early varieties across the region for the 2018 apple season, and are expecting another strong year in terms of yields.
Mr Thouard says apples make up around 35 per cent (approx. $100m) of the region's horticultural produce, adding that during the harvest the cost of wages paid for picking, packing and distribution, which is largely done by overseas and international workers, is assessed at approximately 30 per cent or turnover, and potentially injects $30m into the broader economy.
"From the picking alone a large portion of producer’s turnover costs makes its way back into the local economy," he said. "That's through all the seasonal workers staying locally, eating and being here for an extended period. So that's a great contribution by having such a strong apple industry in the region."
When the event was last held in 2016, it 109,000 people attended the festival. Mr Thouard has set a target of 110,000 people attending the event over the 10 days, which will be a significant economic boost, which filters back to the growers and farmers.
"In the past the main event weekend attracts 75,000 people," he said. "The town's size is 5,500 people - so it is a big effort to bring in 110,000 people. From the work we did in 2016 with a company called Earth Check, which do economic analysis and impacts of events - the data that was surveyed found it was a $10.14million economic boost to the region just from the festival alone over the one weekend. But not only that, when you take into account the repeat visitation numbers throughout any one year, there is a magic figure is out there - it could be closer to $50.14million."
While grapes do not have as much of a presence in the region, as they once did, the festival also recognises that the region has the state's leading wine industry, which complements table grape production.
The festival includes a street carnival, grand parade, multicultural fiesta, grape crush, wine and food master classes, gala ball, and cooking competitions. But one of the most important events is an Italian banquet or, "Banchetto Italiano", which recognises Stanthorpe's long standing international heritage.
"This festival we intend to have a true celebration of who are the real pioneers of the fruit and vegetable industry," Mr Thouard said. "Yes there were certainly many Australian farmers around but our biggest asset in that sense was the Italian migration to this region. They bought up small parcels of land and they are the ones who brought their cold country type climate production knowledge with them and there were a huge number of Italian settlements here."
For more information on the festival, visit: www.appleandgrape.org
Phone: +61 7 4681 4111
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