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AU: SPC Ardmona contract cuts hit growers hard

Fruit growers have spoken about the decision by SPC Ardmona to cut the amount of fruit it will take from them this year. The food processor cut its peach quotas by 17 per cent this year and only told growers after they had started to prepare trees for the upcoming season. Orchardists say communication between SPCA and growers needs to be better for the industry in the Goulburn Valley to survive. Gary Godwill from Kialla East near Shepparton says he just wants more time to make important business decisions. "We are getting mixed messages."

"We were being told early in the year that there would be increases in quota, then all of a sudden the cannery came out and said no there were going to be decreases." Another orchardist Ray Pool from Invergordon near Numurkah says because growers received the news of a contract cut late, it will have cost individual businesses tens of thousands of dollars. "Oh look definitely, definitely and the bigger you are the harder you are hit." That's the whole problem."

SPC Ardmona Managing Director Vince Pinneri seems suprised by the criticism. The company believed it was communicating to growers that a cut was on the way. Mr Pinneri says the cut was required because the demand from consumers for packaged peaches has fallen significantly. "Even though we've been aggressive during this year in terms of our activity with all of our customers and are gaining share, our actual sales are down 14 per cent this year." The high Australian dollar means the company has long since lost most of its export opportunities and cheap imports make the domestic market very competitive.

Whilst many orchardists understand the predicament that SPC Ardmona faces they still worry for their industry. "I've hired a contractor to come in and sink some dams for me in the next few days," says Gary Godwill. "He said, no it wont be the next few days it will be at least another month because I am still flat out pushing out fruit trees." "Its not looking good for the whole industry."


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