A RISE in demand for fruit has come too late for many Goulburn Valley growers. Sixty suppliers were delisted by cannery giant SPC Ardmona in April after the company announced it would slash fruit intakes by up to 30,000 tonnes.
But demand for SPCA canned fruit is reportedly now up 15 per cent after a $7 million deal with Woolworths. Ten fruit growers have been brought back on board by SPCA to meet the demand, but the move was too late for some, many of whom have bulldozed some of their trees.
Shepparton East grower Geoff Fowler destroyed 90 per cent of his peach orchard after he was told in September he would no longer be supplying SPCA. Just 10 days later he was told he was “back in” and asked to supply a small tonnage of peaches, which he agreed to.
“In 2012 they told us that it was a good season. We grew as much as we could for them. We nurtured the trees, fertilised the trees and we had contracts. Suddenly there were no homes for this fruit,” Mr Fowler said.
He said he planted new peach trees only last year at SPCA’s request.
“They actually asked us to plant these trees ... and now they’ve chopped us off,” he said.
John Wilson, general manager of Fruit Growers Victoria, said up to 80 per cent of the area’s peach trees and 30 per cent of its pear trees had been destroyed.
“A number of farmers are in desperate straits,” he said.