Frost-hit growers seek help

LOCAL grape growers have implored the state and federal governments to add black frost damage to the list of natural disasters eligible for relief funding.

Four local wine grape growers met with Riverina MP Michael McCormack and a representative of member for Murrumbidgee Adrian Piccoli in Griffith last Friday.

Yenda farmer Peter Cremasco, who lost 80 per cent of his grapes this season, was satisfied the story of his plight made an impression but said he wasn't promised anything.

"What they both stressed above all was that growers need to contact the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and advise them of the frost damage situation and how much the growers have lost before they can do anything," Mr Cremasco said.

"The only way to prove black frost is not a common occurrence is for every farmer to report any damage they received, to convince them it's a natural disaster and they need to do something about it."

Mr Cremasco said the frost had exacerbated underlying financial and health issues amongst farmers and jeopardised the longevity of the local industry.

"There's a handful of local farmers under 30 who will become long-term grape growers, especially as they can work in town and have a weekly pay cheque without the stress they see their parents going through," he said.

"Depression is another problem, it's under the surface and people don't want to admit it's there, but it is present and it's putting strain on everyone and everything.

"To make matters worse, grape prices won't go up because growers are only as strong as the weakest link and with so many people on the brink of bankruptcy, there's a lot of weak links."

Mr McCormack said he sympathised with growers but the problem was within the jurisdiction of state government.

"It's a dire situation because the damage is so extensive and sporadic, but the farmers really need to report any damage to the DPI in order to facilitate any assistance down the track," Mr McCormack said.

"Farmers can hardly turn around and point the finger at the government and say we didn't heed their concerns if they haven't reported the damage they suffered."

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