10 May 2012

Kiwifruit growers call for financial help

6:12 am on 10 May 2012

Kiwifruit growers are calling for financial assistance following a report on the impact of the vine disease PSA that says the industry is facing losses of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The long-awaited independent report from Lincoln University, commissioned by the recovery body Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH), was released on Wednesday.

It says PSA will cost the former $1.3 billion export industry between $740 and $880 million over the next 15 years in disease management and lost production. Half of that will be felt in the next five years.

The report says the disease will also result in up to 470 jobs being lost each year until 2016.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers president Neil Trebilco says the report will enable growers to talk meaningfully with the Government and banks about possible assistance.

KVH financial recovery co-ordinator John Burke says that process will be slower and costlier if the kiwifruit industry doesn't get financial help.

He says part of the report examines a theoretical assisted recovery, which assumes growers can access finance to get back on track as quickly as possible, and this is the lower cost quoted.

"The higher number is the potential impact if there's a segment of growers who can't access finance, fall into financial difficulties with their banks, are forced to sell," he said.

Mr Burke said this would be likely to mean a downturn in the property market and loss of bankers' confidence which would prolong the recovery and have a greater impact on the economy.

Bay of Plenty grower Russell West says many growers have nothing to harvest, and now have properties worth less than they owe their bank.

PSA has infected almost 1200 orchards since November 2010 - more than a third of kiwifruit properties.