Orchardists have no future without support

John Gregorovich & Wally Gava
John Gregorovich & Wally Gava

Third-generation orchardist Wally Gava said his son would not be following the family tradition on the land.

‘The Australian dollar has killed off the fruit export industry and the Government needs to understand there won’t be a farming sector unless they can help us,’ he said.

‘We need subsidies to keep this industry going. You can’t eat iron ore.’

Mr Gava said his wife worked as an academic.

‘You need someone else working not on the orchard to make a living,’ he said.

‘This was not the case in my parents’ or grandparents’ generations.’

A grower from Carmel, who did not want to be named, said mid-size orchards were being squeezed between the markets and large supermarkets, which were dominating the industry.

‘We don’t want our fruit to be treated as cheap as milk in the price war,’ he said.

‘The big supermarkets want central distribution of fruit and milk and they want to bring the prices down from the seller, but we can’t sell any cheaper with the cost of fertiliser and petrol and other expenses like labour.’

Third-generation Pickering Brook orchardist John Gregorovich said he was trying to find other ways to make a living.

‘Markets and prices are diminishing all the time,’ he said.

Mr Gregorovich said about half the orchards had disappeared in the past decade.

Mr Gregorovich is a member of the Hills Orchard study review and is pushing for local growers to be allowed to sell off a 2ha lot. The orchardists are working with Kalamunda Shire on the issue.

Kalamunda Shire acting chief executive Clayton Higham said the intent of the Hills Orchard study review was to explore the current land use and trends in the area.

‘We are also reviewing the local planning scheme, state planning policies, environmental strategies and other statutory documents that govern land use and lot size with a view to preserving the orchard industry in the Kalamunda Hills for the long term,’ Mr Higham said.

A working group includes growers, Department of water, planning, agriculture and food representatives and shire councillors and staff.

The council is expected to vote on a recommendation at its June 19 meeting.