Batlow Apples eyes $6m expansion

Batlow Fruit Company regional orchard manager Andrew Desprez is hoping for a major boost for the company and for Batlow itself.

Batlow Fruit Company, which supplies and packages many of the apples grown at Batlow, is eyeing expansion that could ultimately create 47 full-time jobs.

During the Black Summers fires, Batlow Fruit Company sustained 10 per cent loss in trees, and their growers also lost a similar percentage, so it is natural to be applying for government help.

Company regional orchard manager Andrew Desprez said he and some of the growers had made a joint application for a $6 million grant under the NSW Government’s Bushfire Local Economical Recovery program.

“We want to add 30 hectares for planting and carry out modifications to our packing facility,” he said.

“It will be a matter of upgrading and replacing the machinery with newer versions.

“In the next few years, it would create 17 new full-time positions, and at the end of 10 years, 47 full-time positions. This would be very significant for a town of this size.”

The Company currently employs 15 per cent of Batlow locals. At this point 30 per cent of apples processed by Batlow Fruit Company come from its own orchards, 60 per cent are from local growers and 10 per cent from out of the district. 

“The upgrade would literally double production for the facility, and would attract fruit from other districts,” Mr Desprez said.

“There would be a 55 per cent increase in full-time employment at the end of 10 years, by the time the plant is in full production. We would be looking at going from a 40,000 bin capacity to 70,000 bin capacity.”

He believes the flow-on effect would be great for Batlow.

“It all hinges on what assistance we get, but we won’t know until June or July,” he said.

“We believe we have put a good case forward.” 

What concerns Mr Desprez is the shortage of places for prospective employees to live.

“It is really tight; there is a massive shortage of housing,” he said.

“Council needs to step up, and more land needs to be released over the next 5 to 6 years. In order to turn the district around, people need somewhere to live.”

Snowy Valleys Council says subdivision potential in Batlow exists within the R3 Medium Density zone and to a lesser extent in the B4 Mixed Use zone.