THE heart-wrenching effects of cheap imports and low margins have been felt by fruit growers around Victoria.
Orchardists from the Goulburn and Murray Valley have begun the gruelling task of bulldozing and burning trees following a slump in demand for their produce on the processed market.
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As SPC Ardmona prepares to halve its intake of peaches and pears next year, growers are fumbling to find new markets for their produce, without flooding the fresh market.
The State Government has offered about $2 million of the $38 million the industry says it needs.
The Federal Government is yet to lend its support.
Growers need money to bulldoze trees and plant new varieties, and failing that they need to burn them so they don't invite fruit fly and other pests and diseases to Victoria's fruit bowl.
A Fruit Growers Victoria report last week showed there were 750ha of fruit trees to be cleared at a cost of $3500 per hectare.
The re-establishment cost for orchards that want to replant is $50,000 per hectare.
SPCA is desperately trying to negotiate with the Federal Government for World Trade Organisation emergency safeguards to provide a temporary reprieve from the onslaught of cheap private-label imports.
Industry groups, the Shepparton Council and locals have urged consumers to consider the future of Australian horticulture when shopping, but ultimately none can blame the consumer.
Everyone is united in the hope a level playing field can be achieved so cheap imports are taxed, and therefore priced, in the same ballpark as domestic product rather than at a quarter of the price.
It's now a tense waiting game to see whether governments will lend a hand or let the ship sink.