Apple and Pear Australia Limited is looking to cover all bases during the upcoming federal election campaign by promoting a national netting program as an election priority.
APAL is proposing a 10-year grant program to cover costs of netting orchard trees across the nation, which costs about $60000/ha.
‘‘Focus on developing a national netting program has been accelerated recently by a number of factors including hail and bird damage in South Australia and NSW, flying fox infestations in Victoria, extreme heat in the Goulburn Valley, on-going drought and water restrictions, plus potential opportunity to export mainland apples to China in the next few years,’’ APAL’s government relations and advocacy head Jeremy Griffith said.
Mr Griffith said the benefits of netting were worth the hefty cost.
‘‘The ability for growers to help protect their orchards from extreme weather conditions and animal infestation cannot be underestimated,’’ he said.
‘‘The impact of these conditions are devastating.’’
Fruit Growers Victoria grower services manager Michael Crisera said getting this program up and running was a must for the industry.
‘‘I think it is hugely important to future-proof produce and help growers reduce water use ... netting will also reduce sunburn, protect the crop from hail and generally results in increased packouts.’’
Mr Crisera urged growers to lobby their local state and federal members to attempt to get the program across the line.
APAL’s proposal includes lobbying for accelerated depreciation for apple and pear netting, extending low interest loans via the Rural Investment Corporation and ensuring the Future Drought Fund is open to the horticulture industry.