21/09/2021 - 15:30

Grape producer to invest $20m in Gascoyne

21/09/2021 - 15:30

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The state government has selected three horticulture groups to develop nearly 280 hectares of land near Carnarvon, with Fruitico to develop by far the most.

Fruitico has been given the right to develop 219ha of land, continuing the group’s rapid expansion. Photo: Fruitico

The state government has selected three horticulture groups to develop nearly 280 hectares of land near Carnarvon, with Fruitico to develop by far the most.

Fruitico has been given the right to develop 219ha of land, continuing the group’s rapid expansion.

The balance of the Gascoyne land has been awarded to Durmo Quality Produce, an established family-owned melon producer in Carnarvon, and 4 Ways Fresh, a South Australian company with horticulture operations in Geraldton.

The Carnarvon project will add to the rapid growth of Fruitico, which is an established table grape producer in the Peel region and is about to start picking its first grapes in the west Kimberley near Broome.

The expansion comes five years after local farmers Roger Fahl and Liz Fahl partnered with Sydney-based Fresh Produce Group.

Mr Fahl said the two expansion projects, in Broome and Carnarvon, would be jointly owned with Fresh Produce Group, which also owns 50 per cent of Fruitico itself.

He expected the joint venture would invest in excess of $20 million in Carnarvon, having already spent a similar amount at Broome.

The joint venture has about 100ha under cultivation in Broome and plans to expand to 400ha.

That’s in addition to 30ha it farms near Pinjarra and Waroona.

Once the group has completed its expansion, total production would be about two million cartons per year – up from 30,000 when the Fahl’s just had their own farm.

It also means the group will have the capacity to supply grapes all year, taking advantage of seasonal variations across its three locations.

Mr Fahl said this meant local produce would displace imports and allow him to utilise his workforce more effectively.

The proponents at Carnarvon have each been offered a three-year development lease, with an option for freehold tenure subject to completion of development activities.

Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said key milestones included clearing the land, laying of infrastructure and planting crops.

The three successful proponents were selected from six expressions of interest.

Ms MacTiernan said the criteria included the growth potential and diversification opportunities offered by each applicant.

She added that the new lots represented a substantial change for the region, as most horticulture farmers around Carnarvon had lots that were 10ha to 20ha in size.

“Building scale of production in Carnarvon is absolutely critical to the long-term sustainability of horticulture in Carnarvon,” she said.

“New large growers in the district will help to develop industry leadership.”

The value of fruit and vegetable output in the region was projected to increase by 25 per cent once the new land was in production.

The land allocation follows upgrades to water and power supplies.

The state government has invested $25 million over the past 10 years to support food production in the Gascoyne region.

This includes the newly developed Northern Borefield, which comprises a 25-kilometre pipeline and an electric power supply.

The Gascoyne Water Co-operative will deliver water to the new horticultural land.

Existing growers have benefited from improved water supply pressure, an additional 1 gigalitre water allocation and the new electricity supply replacing diesel powered pumps. 

Lands Minister Tony Buti said this stage two land sale was the final milestone in the government’s Gascoyne Food Bowl Initiative.

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