Netting scheme needed for fruit growers

Netting scheme needed for fruit growers

In the wake of the devastating hailstorm that swept through the Riverland last night, Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has called on the Government to help South Australian fruit growers finance netting for vulnerable crops.

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie is pictured with Hills apple growers Susie Green, left, Matthew Flavell and Jody Schultz at a netted Ceravolo Orchard at Nairne prior to the Apple & Pear Growers Association of SA annual meeting last month.

“I have been advocating for some time for a dollar-for-dollar scheme for netting orchards in my electorate because the science tells us severe storms are going to become the norm rather than the exception as farmers deal with the impact of climate change,” Rebekha said.

“And it’s not just storms, climatic pressures are also displacing flying fox and bird populations, leading to increased damage in horticultural regions across the state.

“While netting is not an option for all crops, this infrastructure can be extremely useful in some fruit industries.

“The apple, pear and cherry growers in my community of Mayo have done it very tough in the last couple of seasons with spring hailstorms sweeping through the Adelaide Hills in 2017 and 2018.

“Following consultation with industry, I began advocating for a netting scheme with the former Agriculture Minister David Littleproud in the 45th Parliament and have continued my discussions with the new Government.

“After multiple seasons of devastation, many growers in my community do not possess the funds necessary to make the capital investment in netting as future insurance to protect their crops.

“Netting costs about $60,000 a hectare on average.

“I believe a $10 million dollar-for-dollar scheme capped at around $300,000 per SA producer would be a hand up rather than a hand out to our farmers.

“It would provide long-term certainty and sustainability for our grower community, especially as the impacts of climate change worsen.

“I think most people want their kids and their grandkids to be able to eat Australian fruit into the future. We need to make sure that we can support our growers.”

Rebekha said netting also had other benefits for growers besides mitigating storm damage.

In 2015 a report by the Apple and Pear Growers Association of South Australia noted that there would be water savings of between 15 and 45 per cent and temperature decreases of between one and three degrees on warm days and between three and six degrees on hot days for orchards that are under netting.