Horticulture

Fruit deal questioned

By Country News

An additional 1.8million cans of fruit will be produced for Coles every year under a new deal with SPC, but the low cost of the cans is causing some concern among growers.

The partnership will see a new range of preserved peaches, pears and apricots sourced from Goulburn Valley growers hit the supermarket shelves.

Ardmona orchardist Peter Hall said while it was great to see more local produce in supermarkets, the price tag of $2 for an 875g can could be a cause for concern.

‘‘I just wonder whether consumers know what that translates to in terms of money in a grower’s pocket,’’ Mr Hall said.

‘‘How do farmers get a sustainable return? If consumers think that’s reasonable they need to think again.

‘‘There is an unsustainable structural issue; there definitely needs to be a much greater awareness of the costs and pressures farmers are under.’’

Shepparton grower John Poulos said the partnership would allow farmers to sell fruit from more than 36000 trees.

‘‘Each peach tree represents a seven-year commitment until they’re producing fruit, and it’s even longer for pears — you plant pears for your heirs — so to have a commitment from Coles for this fruit makes life so much easier,’’ Mr Poulos said.

‘‘It takes a while to get a tree cropping and there’s not really any fresh market demand for the fruit, as these varieties are especially grown for canning.

‘‘So to be able to maintain these trees and not have to think about replanting new varieties is very important to us.’’

SPC managing director Reg Weine labelled the agreement a ‘‘great boost’’ for the company.

‘‘It is great to see Coles continue to support local businesses and growers,’’ Mr Weine said.

‘‘The Coles brand volume will improve our factory utilisation and will also provide our growers with an additional outlet for their quality fruit.’’

The iconic Shepparton company is up for sale by owner Coca Cola Amatil.

CCA wrote down the value of the company to zero in February and is expected to complete the sale by mid-year.