AUSTRALIA'S largest premium dried fruit processor has announced it will slash farmgate prices for the season ahead.
Australian Premium Dried Fruits is the second dried fruit processor to cut prices this season, following Irymple-based Sunbeam seven weeks ago.
The company has claimed "extremely trying trading conditions'' forced the cuts.
The Australian-owned processor, based at Wargan, west of Merbein, has released a price guide for contracted growers who meet all bonus criteria, and will still pay a substantial premium to growers who deliver sunmuscat and sultana fruit.
APDF business relationships manager John Gray said the processor intended to pay contracted growers - who grow the highest quality light fruit and meet full bonus criteria - $2100 a tonne for sultana and sunmuscat varieties.
"At this stage, our minimum price for all other contracted fruit, including currants, will be $1,700 a tonne,'' he said.
"Five Crown dark fruit will be up to $2,000 a tonne and other grades will be priced in between.
"We hope that this should provide growers with some comfort whilst preparing for harvest.
"We are delaying the release of prices for all of the varying types and grades as late as possible in the hope that conditions will improve.''
Overall, growers will be getting about $200 a tonne less than before.
Last year farmgate prices were up $275 a tonne from 2009, but few growers received this after storms during harvest meant they did not meet quality requirements.
Managing director Alan Williamson said the company was determined to provide growers with the highest price possible for high quality fruit.
He said dried fruit had undergone a resurgence in recent years, but a poor quality harvest of dark fruit last year had coincided with higher quality, cheaper, imported fruit, challenging the industry to recover lost domestic and overseas markets.
"The plan is to redevelop these overseas markets but to do this we need the best light fruit - for which we are world renowned - at a competitive price,'' Mr Williamson said.
"We also want to assure growers that we see an exciting future for the dried fruit industry once we ride out this current challenging period.''
The state of the struggling industry has lead Dried Fruits Australia to lobby the Federal Government for a $10 million boost to develop up to 1200ha of new plantings of the latest high-yielding varieties.
Mr Gray welcomed growers to contact him with any questions or concerns.
Contact APDF on (03) 5025 6210.