South Australia horticulture producers will soon be able to access up to $14.6 million to install new or replace damaged netting.
Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie said the majority of orchards were not netted, but the up-front costs of installing the protection were a major barrier for farmers.
“Netting delivers clear productivity boosts to apple and pear farmers by protecting crops from extreme weather and predators,” Minister McKenzie said.
“Netting increases protection from sunburn, wind and hail—not to mention the birds and bats that love to have a first crack at our premium South Australian fruit crops.
“Perhaps more importantly during the current drought, netting delivers a dramatic improvement in water efficiency.
“A recent three year trial in WA found netting reduced water requirements by around 20 per cent.
“It’s a vital investment in the Australian Government’s work to grow the value of horticulture production and lift the value of agriculture to $100 billion by 2030.”
Minister McKenzie said Apple and Pear Australia Limited estimated the cost of netting at up to $60,000 per hectare.
“That’s a very significant investment for growers and we are determined to improve resilience and water efficiency by supporting apple and pear farms,” she said.
“These funds will go a long way to helping those growers who experienced significant loss.
“That’s why we are making $14.6 million available to eligible South Australian growers in the Greater Adelaide and Adelaide Hills regions and the Riverland district to purchase and installing horticulture netting or replacing damaged netting.”
Additional funds have been made available for the South Australian apple and pear growers who were hit particularly hard in the recent hail storms.
Senator for South Australia Anne Ruston acknowledged the Adelaide Hills families for the resilience they have shown following recent hailstorms.
“The Government is delighted that we can provide this assistance to ensure our local horticulture industries remain viable into the future,” Senator Ruston said.
Tony Pasin says he has been advocating for measures to help growers with protected horticulture since a freak storm decimated much of the Riverland industry in 2016.
“There are significant cost barriers to large scale netting for growers and if we can assist in the initial outlay for the infrastructure I think we can see some very substantial benefits.
“With water prices as they are in the Riverland at the moment, no-one wants to pay such a high price for water only to see crops decimated before they can be picked,” Mr Pasin said.
The Federal Government also acknowledges the work of Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie who has advocated for this funding.
The scheme will commence in 2020 and operate until 31 December 2021 or until funds are fully committed. Eligible growers will be required to at least match the Commonwealth contribution and the trial program will be capped at $300,000 (GST exclusive) per grower.
Delivery arrangements are being finalised and further details will be available on the department’s website shortly.