SPC Ardmona, the nation’s last remaining fruit processor says that it may be forced to close if the Abbott government refuses to come through with a $25m grant promised by the former Labor government.
The funding was meant to be sourced from a clean technology programme, which the Liberal government has since pledged to scrap as it was funded by the carbon tax, The Guardian reports.
Peter Kelly, chief executive of SPC Ardmona said that the company ‘does not have a viable future’ without the grant.
“The situation is urgent. We had a productive meeting with minister Macfarlane (the new industry minister) but we need an answer fast. We understand this is a new government and we need to show some patience, but the board has been holding off on a decision for some time,” Kelly told The Guardian.
"I can't see a viable way for SPC to keep operating in the future if we don't invest this money. I can't say it any clearer than that."
Local liberal MP, Sharman Stone agrees that the funding is urgently needed and is lobbying for a fast decision.
“I accept the minister is going as fast as he can. But SPC Ardmona is the last remaining fruit manufacturer in Australia. We know there is a demand for Australian product but in the current conditions, with the dollar this high and imports this cheap, they can’t compete,” she said.
“Without this grant it will probably be impossible for them to continue … thousands of jobs would be lost, thousands of hectares of fruit trees would be bulldozed and a regional economy would be destroyed.”
SPC Ardmona has secured various deals with Australian retailers in the recent months including a $7m deal with Woolworths which will see the supermarket giant replace imported fruit with locally grown for its Woolworths Select range. However SPC says that these new deals are not enough to sustain the business in the long-term.
SPC Ardmona is also calling upon the federal and state governments to support local food processors and farmers by encouraging public institutions including gaols, hospitals and army barracks to purchase locally processed food.