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Grafter serves up marmalade

A PERTH man is on the verge of proving money may well grow on trees.

At the age of twenty, and after five years of hard work, Stuart Saggers is on the verge of commercialising his grafted fruit trees.

His mainstay crops are ‘marmalade’ trees – a mix of lemons, oranges and grapefruit – and lemon and lime trees.

“I have a lot of orders from private buyers and sell small batches through small nurseries,” Mr Saggers said.

Recently, he has also had interest from some of the bigger nurseries.

“At worst I’ll get $6 for each tree wholesale – at best $18,” Mr Saggers said.

Currently, similar grafted citrus trees are usually imported from Victoria.

“You need a high success rate for multi-grafts to get the nurseries interested. I manage about a 90 per cent to 95 per cent success rate,” Mr Saggers said.

He currently has 26,000 trees bagged – 22,000 of them citrus – and ready for sale on his parents’ property at Banjup.

“I lost one 2,000 plant batch through a freak and so I’m one year behind,” Mr Saggers said.

His interest in tree grafting came while at agricultural school in Harvey.

“I did a bit of grafting down there and just carried on with it,” Mr Saggers said.

“I went to Curtin and started a degree in viticulture. I pulled out half-way through to concentrate on my fruit trees because I figured I’d learned all I needed to.”

To support himself while the business takes root, Mr Saggers has been working thirty-five hours a week at the Jandakot Liquor Store.

He also puts in about forty hours a week on his business.

“I can be in the shed at eleven o’clock at night still bagging trees,” Mr Saggers said.

As the citrus trees have started to take hold, he has turned his sights to stone fruit such as plums. He is also working on a grape vine that will produce both white and red grapes.

The business has already shown competitive merit. Mr Saggers won $20,000 in the Nescafé Big Break competition.

He said it was important for people to follow up on their ideas before somebody else exploited them.

Mr Saggers said one of the business people he most admired was his father.

“He’s been a mentor for most of my family,” he said.

“He always helps me out and pushes me in the right direction.”

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