NSW Director of Apple and Pear Australia Limited (APAL) and owner of Batlow orchard Mouat’s Farm, Greg Mouat, travelled to three apple-growing centres in NSW last week to meet with growers.
He travelled with APAL CEO Philip Turnbull to Bilpin, Orange, and – of course – Batlow, although the dinner was actually held in Tumut, to discuss the state of the industry.
“For APAL, it’s about saying we are here, we are hearing your concerns, and we’re here to listen to those concerns,” said Mr Mouat.
He said growers in other regions had similar concerns to those in Batlow: the need to upgrade orchards with expensive new varieties in order to remain viable; the ageing grower base as current farmers’ children remain reluctant to take on the family orchards; and the fact that fruit and vegetable consumption in Australia is declining even as the population – and the obesity rate – increases.
“Those concerns have been there for a long time, and we are continually looking for advice on what to do and how to remain viable [as an industry] in an ever changing world,” he said.
Mr Mouat has been a Director with APAL, the peak industry body for Australian apples and pears, for six years. He said one of their biggest priorities at the moment was increasing overseas export opportunities for Australian producers.
“We as an industry body would like to see more exports, that would take some of the pressure off of domestic sales,” he said.
“For a country that’s relied almost 100 per cent on domestic sales, it’s very hard for apples to qualify for export in terms of protocols and what they have to do to get products into those other countries. But this year exports from Australia have increased, and we’re very buoyed by that.”
One hundred containers of Aussie apples have been exported this year, up from 40 last year.