The Nationals Member for Shepparton, Kim O’Keeffe, has called on the Andrews Government to provide an update and status on the Horticultural Netting Program, as a result of the last round of applications of the program closed on October 17, 2022 in response to recent hailstorm events faced by local growers across the Shepparton District.
We are the Foodbowl and Fruit Capitol of Australia, something we are very proud of and we must protect and support one of our biggest assets.
Local growers across the Shepparton District have worn the brunt of recent hailstorm events in a matter of months. With the most recent event taken place on March 23, 2023, Fruit Growers Victoria (FGV) have estimated that local growers of the horticultural industry across the Goulburn Valley region were estimated to suffer an asset value loss of $20,877,750 as a result hailstorm damage.
The Horticultural Netting Program was established to assist horticultural primary producers to increase resilience by reducing exposure to crop damage through the purchase and installation of netting over existing horticultural crops.
Growers were eligible for up to 50 per cent of the cost to purchase and to have a third-party install new permanent netting and/or drape netting, up to a maximum of $100,000.
“The impacts of these crop losses experienced by the local horticultural industry across the Shepparton District, not only effects local growers in my electorate but it also effects other businesses that rely on the supply of this fruit. The only remaining fruit is in areas that were protected by netting,” Ms O’Keeffe said.
“Research has shown that protective netting helps growers produce better crops, in higher numbers to food security and that nets can also reduce water usage by up to 30%.
“A further co-investment, between the Federal Government and the Victorian State Government in netting to protect horticultural crops would improve growers’ resilience not only across the Shepparton District but most importantly wider rural and regional Victoria. In response to extreme weather events and assist growers to maintain productivity and jobs.
“Horticulture is not only important to the Shepparton District but also rural and regional economies, where in 2021-22, the horticultural industry was forecasted to account for 17% value of farm production, with exports accounting for 5.5% of farm exports.