THROUGH the desolation brought on by the recent fruit industry crisis, light is being seen at the end of the tunnel for some Goulburn Valley growers, who are continuing to produce fruit for the Australian market and seeding the future of the region.Plunkett Orchards, who were among those to have their peach supply to SPC Ardmona cut, made the move 10 years ago to grow apples in the region as well as stone fruits and since the fruit industry debacle have been focusing on building on their 40ha apple growing site, just recently planting their latest lot of trees.The apples produced, which include Pink Lady, Gala and Fuji are being picked, processed and packed by between 70 and 150 staff and then provided to local markets as well as the big supermarkets right across Australia.
Orchard Manager at Plunkett Orchards, Jason Shields said, "This year alone we have planted 16ha of fruit and we have a plan to have the whole farm planted in the next five years."We get about 3,000 trees or 80 tonnes of apples per hectare and because the Australian market for apples is still pretty strong, apples are the light at the end of the tunnel in the Goulburn Valley at the moment."With the new growing systems and styles the fruit is more consistent and of better quality as well as being easier to manage, so you can put a farm up pretty quickly."Realistically we have pushed all our stone fruit out because of the issues with the cannery."It's impressive to see the amount of people still planting and it's not just apples, some are still planting stone fruits because they have a system in place and it's working for them. Despite everything there is still a lot of optimism in the Goulburn Valley at the moment," Jason said.FRUITY SUCCESS… Despite the cuts from SPC Ardmona earlier this year, orchardists across the region are showing their optimism by continuing to plant fruit. From left, Orchard Manager at Plunkett Orchards, Jason Shields. Photo: Alicia Niglia.Orchardist, Andrew Plunkett said, "There is still a lot going on in the industry at the moment."There are businesses struggling who relied on the cannery, but there are others who are going on like business as usual."There are still a lot of trees being planted outside the normal 'fruit growing intensive' areas."We started growing our apples in 1999 further down the road from where they are now and then three years later we decided to start fresh at the 40ha site we are now on."There is plenty of potential for fresh fruit and the apple varieties we produce do well in Shepparton."On the whole it has worked out well for us," Andrew said.
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