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Australia: Batlow N&A Group gets $150,000 organic loan help

Batlow in New South Wales is a little town that was devastated by fire in early January. Its community leaders are calling for more help to deal with the bushfire disaster.

Southern NSW apple and berry growing business, N&A Group, has become the latest beneficiary of interest free loans and grants from retailer Woolworths. The supermarket group is intent on helping conventional producers go organic.

"We're seeing double digit growth in customer demand for organic fruit and vegetables, and believe the trend will only continue over coming years," said Woolworths head of produce, Paul Turner.

The organic growth fund offered farmers the certainty of longer-term demand for their organic fruit and vegetables.

Snowy Valley Council councillor Margaret Isslemann is deeply concerned about the future. A lot of workers had left after the fires when orchards were burnt just before harvest. "It could be another three years before those jobs return," she said.

While Councillor Isslemann believes the Red Cross has done a good job supporting people affected by the fires, she was worried about people falling "through the cracks". "A lot of funding has been raised, but very little has been delivered."

Some people were too proud to ask for assistance, some were being incorrectly assessed in her view, and others were just not applying because they felt there were others worse off.

Government money indispensable for the apple industry
Apple grower Michael Smart is worried about the future. He saved his house but lost many of his fruit trees and 10 to 15 per cent of the fruit on them. Smart wants more government assistance, but not for himself. Batlow is the only place in NSW that still has its own apple packing shed and he hopes for government funding.


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