MINISTER for Agriculture, David Littleproud was in Mildura this week to announce two key funding initiatives aimed at assisting the horticulture industry, with producers across our region set to benefit from the expansion of the ‘Horticultural Netting Program’.

“Horticultural netting provides a huge range of benefits,” Mr Littleproud said.

“Properly installed netting can seriously improve both the quality and quantity of fresh food crops, while reducing water usage by up to 30 per cent.

“The value added for growers by programs like this will help the agriculture industry to become a $100 billion sector by 2030.

“I am pleased that the finalisation of the funding agreement will see $11.2 million in additional Australian Government funding provided to Victoria producers. This brings total funding for netting in Victoria to almost $16 million.

“Importantly this is a dollar-for-dollar grant up to $300,000. And so there is an investment by the farmer and by the Australian taxpayer that gives a return on investment, not just to the farmer, but to the community as well as farmers source their materials locally.”

Belvedere Fruits’ Paul Scopelliti welcomed the assistance for the netting, saying that it it improves the quality and yield of the fruit from his citrus trees.

“It protects the trees from hail, wind and sunburn, which can have a multiple effect on the fruit,” he said.

“Overall it protects the trees from the harshness of the various weather conditions.”

Mr Scopelliti said that cost of the screening was significant, being in the vicinity of $15,000 to $25,000 an acre.

“It will vary and it’s not cheap, but it enable us to grow mangoes here for example, which we otherwise not be able to do in this region without the netting,” he said.

Member for Mallee Anne Webster, who joined the Minister, said the grant would see improved productivity and farm gate returns for even more horticulture producers in Mallee and across Victoria.

“Victoria’s horticulture sector produced more than $3 billion worth of fruit, nuts and vegetables in 2019-20,” Dr Webster said.

“Now with the expanded program opening to most horticultural commodities, Industry will be able to improve the quality and quantity of outputs.

“By conserving water and minimising damage from bad weather, industry will be future-proofing from the shocks and impacts of climate change.

“As we head towards the target of $100 billion by 2030 in the ag industry, every mechanism to assist productivity is welcomed. The netting program is part of addressing some of the challenges that are faced by the horticultural industry.”