Australia: Batlow apple growers call for more government support

It has been five months since bushfire decimated apple orchards across the NSW Riverina Highlands and with apple harvest now completed many growers are finally able to focus their attention on rebuilding and cleaning up their orchards.

It comes at the same time the NSW government is looking to give growers supply chain support grants of up to $120,000 hectare to use in their orchards as part of the state's Bushfire Industry Recovery Package.

Batlow apple grower Ian Cathles had 20,000 apple trees at his orchard impacted by bushfire in January that hit the Riverina Highlands and is hopeful he will qualify for the grant to help clean up and replace trees, trellises and netting in his orchard.

And while the grant money falls short of the $500,000 a hectare he estimated it would cost him to replant the eight hectares of apple trees that were destroyed in the bushfire, he does welcome any financial assistance.

"There is of no guarantee of really how much you will receive at this stage and working with government's that has been a continual problem of what is announced is different is different to what may be allocated," Mr Cathles said.

"It is a long game to get back to where we were, by the time you order the trees, work the ground and it's five years of work to develop that orchard, it is very expensive."

Apple and Pear Australia chief executive officer Phil Turnbull had been lobbying for the grants and said growers still needed support from the Federal Government

"In the five-year 'Build Back Better: Apple Industry Bushfire Recovery Program' we identified that it would cost $350,000 a hectare and we are away off still from that," Mr Turnbull said.

"The Federal Government has allocated money to bushfires but it is still yet to announce to what extent the apple industry will benefit," he said.

As reported on abc.net.au¸ NSW apple growers have until June 12 to apply for the supply chain support grants.


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