Fruit Company Regional Orchard Manager Andrew Desprez says the $2.73 million from the Bushfire Local Economic Relief Fund for Batlow Apples to upgrade its packhouse will benefit the whole Batlow community.
The money is part of more than $25 million the federal government is injecting into the snowy Valleys region.
“It is fantastic,” Mr Desprez said.
“It has been a year and a half since the fires and it has been a pretty long road. To receive this funding will go a long way to helping us get back on our feet.”
He believes the money will help growers as well as the Batlow community as a whole.
“It is not just improving the packing facility, there is a flow-on effect for shareholders, growers and the local community,” he said.
“BLER is a community-based fund, and the criteria is that it has to benefit the community, and that’s what this will do.”
Mr Desprez explained that since the bushfires, much replanting of apple trees has occurred, meaning an increased capacity to process the resulting fruit is crucial.
“The newly replanted areas will have a much higher yield capacity than the older ones; they will be more high-density,” he said.
“Production will go from 30 to 40 tons per hectare to 70 to 80 tons per hectare; it will double the old capacity.”
The plantings will of course increase the amount of apples through the packing house.
“The upgrade of the shed will improve efficiency, reduce downtime and lower water and power useage.
“It will be a much more sustainable operation with the latest equipment, and will increase flexibility to service markets.
He believes the increased plantings and processing capacity will create job opportunities in a region that will desperately need them in the near future.
“The greater efficiency will provide better service for growers and increasing returns,” he said.