HILLS orchardists are struggling to cover the cost of production with record low prices for their bumper crop of stone fruit this season.
Pickering Brook grower Danielle Della Franca said the season had been extremely challenging for growers.
“The majority of growers are struggling with high labour costs and below average prices on an increased volume of fruit,” she said.
“The weather has had an impact with 140mm of rain received, followed by higher than usual humidity which meant we had to dump some damaged nectarines.
“These conditions are a breeding ground for diseases and pests and costs have increased in order to stay on top of it.”
Mrs Della Franca said these increased operating costs was adding to the difficult season.
“The cost of pesticides and fertilisers has increased along with packaging costs which have increased 25 per cent since 2014,” she said.
“Our electricity bills are higher than ever, although our usage was less than the same period last year.
“Added to these costs is the equipment we are required to buy in order to comply with the requirements of the big supermarket chains such as label makers and sticker machines.
“The cost of registering and insuring essential vehicles for orchard operation and fruit transport has also risen, adding to the overall costs of producing a box of fruit.
“We have been able to cover costs of production but only because our family thin, pick and pack the fruit ourselves.”
Hills Orchard Improvement Group spokesman Brett DelSimone said prices had been depressed for the past four weeks and were unsustainable for businesses.
“Stone fruit producers have been struggling through a significant period of diminished wholesale returns due to an unusually large crop on high-yield late season varieties, with many lines selling at well below the cost of production,” he said.
“Nectarines are selling off the market floor for less than $2 a kilo which is below the cost of production.”
Mr DelSimone called on consumers to support the industry.
“We are encouraging WA consumers to help producers by taking advantage of the reduced retail prices of high quality peaches, nectarines and plums while this over-supply is in place,” he said.
“In time, stone fruit will return to a state of normalised supply volume, in the meantime it is critical that local consumers seek out, and insist on, WA-grown produce on the retail shelves.”