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More funding for bushfire-affected wine producers and apple growers

By Rodney Woods

Four new initiatives to support the forestry industry, wine producers and apple growers hit by the bushfires and the effects of COVID-19 are set to form a major plank in the rebuilding effort in communities across Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the $86 million worth of new targeted grants would support some of Australia’s hardest hit primary producers.

“This is about helping communities build back better,” Mr Morrison said.

“As our communities battle to overcome the effects of drought, bushfires and now COVID-19, it's initiatives like these that will also help accelerate economic recovery and ultimately deliver more jobs to the regions.

“With more than $1.4 billion in recovery and relief already rolling out to bushfire-affected communities for everything from direct hardship payments and support to clear debris, through to wildlife rescue and financial counselling, these new programs will help our forestry industry, and apple and wine growers take the next step on their recovery.”

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the agricultural and forestry sectors formed the foundation of the country's food and fibre security and were also key to jobs and prosperity in many communities affected by the 2019-20 bushfires.

“This assistance acknowledges that the impact on wine grapes extends beyond the fire scar,” Mr Littleproud said.

“In some cases, smoke taint from the bushfires has led to a loss of the harvest for the 2020 vintage, estimated to be around 60 000 tonnes lost.

“Our apple producers have suffered significant impacts, with Apple and Pear Australia Limited estimating that 170.5 hectares of apple orchards need to be replaced.

“To put this into perspective, each hectare can cost around $360 000 to replace, and take up to five years to produce income again.”

APAL chief executive officer Phil Turnbull said the funding announcement was especially welcome given the significant and ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the Australian community and the economy.

“The announcement provides much needed practical assistance to fund the clean-up of destroyed orchards and to replace trees, trellises and netting,” Mr Turnbull said.

“The funding will also kick-start employment and provide a boost to the local economies.”

Australian Grape & Wine chief executive Tony Battaglene said Australian wine producers were renowned for producing high quality wine grapes and, given the focus on maintaining this high standard of product, many producers made the devastating choice not to pick.

“This initiative will help those growers who were unable to sell grapes due to smoke damage,” Mr Battaglene said.

“The outcome for our sector's reputation was positive but the cost to individual growers was high — this will help address that.”

For more information about bushfire relief funding, go to: bushfirerecovery.gov.au