VFF says farmers have been ignored

VFF chief Peter Tuohey
VFF chief Peter Tuohey

GOULBURN Valley fruitgrowers and rural leaders have expressed anger and disappointment at the Federal cabinet’s decision.

Victorian Farmers Federation chief Peter Tuohey said the decision ignored rural Australia.

Gary Godwill, whose family has been growing fruit in the Goulburn Valley for 100 years and supplying SPC Ardmona for decades, said he was “bitterly disappointed”.

“It seems it was a decision that’s based on an ideology that is just not going to work,” he said.

“Sooner or later we’re going to have no industry left in Australia and that’s a very disappointing trend.”

If Shepparton’s huge SPC Ardmona cannery was forced to shut its doors in response to the decision it would cause “total devastation” for the district, Mr Godwill said.

Last year, SPC managing director Peter Kelly questioned how the company could be viable without major investment.

If the cannery closes, Mr Godwill, 59, said he would phase out his orchard and gradually bulldoze his trees to use the land to grow feed for the beef cattle side of his farming operation.

This season, his Kialla East orchard will supply peaches, pears and apples to the cannery.

Mr Tuohey said: “We’re disappointed and we’re angry that the government has ignored rural Australia again by not investing in that SPC factory.”

Given the huge amount of money governments had spent modernising irrigation infrastructure in northern Victoria in recent years, Mr Tuohey said “it seems a bit silly” for the government to say no to SPC.

“It’s like building a fence around a paddock and not putting a gate on,” he said.

SPC employs about 800 permanent workers across its entire operations, the vast bulk of them in the Goulburn Valley.

It has three factories, in Shepparton, Ardmona and Kyabram.

Its workforce swells to about 1200 people during the fruit processing season.

A Shepparton cannery worker said the mood among workers was “a bit forlorn”.

“A lot have been there for quite a few years,” the worker said.