A LOCAL citrus grower has slammed an inquiry into the industry, saying it was simply a way of “shutting up” farmers for 12 months without solving any problems.
The parliamentary inquiry, announced last week, has pledged to review the structure of the Australian citrus industry, look at opportunities and inhibitors for growth and examine the impacts of importing foreign fruit.
But grower Garry Harriman said there were only two ways to fix the citrus industry and neither of them had any chance of emerging from the inquiry.
“It’s common knowledge that you don’t have an inquiry unless you know the outcome, because otherwise it could be very embarrassing,” Mr Harriman said.
“What we need is to be able to have oranges picked at a much cheaper rate, maybe $3 a tonne instead of $80 a tonne, which won’t happen until people get so hungry that they’re willing to work for peanuts.
“Of course, the much easier solution would be to put tariffs on the price of oranges and juice being imported into the country but that will never happen because our government has spent billions of dollars promoting free trade.”
To save money on labour, Mr Harriman no longer has a full-time workforce, instead calling in workers when he needs them.
He said it was unsustainable to pay 8 cents per kilo to have fruit picked when he was only receiving 12 cents per kilo for his produce.
“One-third of the cost of the industry is labour and that’s the one thing you can’t cut back on,” Mr Harriman said.
“You can use less fertiliser, be more efficient with water and cut back on maintenance, which all affects your yield, but when you need labour, you need labour.”
The Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee will hold a hearing in Griffith to allow local growers to contribute to the inquiry.
The findings are due to be handed down in June.