Final fruit harvest

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Gary Godwill on his land that once grew fruit for SPC.

When the last truckload of fruit left Gary Godwill’s Kialla East orchard earlier this year, he ordered the excavator to start the removal of his fruit trees.

Mr Godwill, a former deputy chairman of Fruit Growers Victoria, had seen the writing on the wall years ago.

The peaches, pears, apricots, apples and pears have disappeared from the property after being uprooted by heavy machinery and obliterated in funeral-like pyres.

His decision to finally exit canning fruit supply was made months before SPC’s announcement of a major reduction in peach and pear intakes.

Fruit growers last month were told the cannery was drastically reducing its intake.

Mr Godwill’s orchard was established by his grandfather more than 60 years ago.

He is transitioning to fodder growing for his developing Angus-cross beef herd, currently on outblocks.

He won’t miss the months of pruning, sometimes working into the dark winter nights.

Confirmation Mr Godwill had made the right decision was amplified last season when he said he grew the best Williams pears he could remember, and he had to sell 10 per cent of the crop for juicing, when SPC rigidly enforced its quota.

“The return would only cover the picking costs,” he said.

“I simply came to the conclusion that it was no longer worth it.”

SPC is blaming competition from cheap imports for a slump in demand.

Mr Godwill is pessimistic about the future of SPC, if the intakes continue to diminish.

“I don’t think there is a trading profit in the processing business. The only profit would be in selling the assets, because they bought it for a song.

“It must be working below critical mass at the current level of intake. But successive owners have done the best they can.

“Certainly I think consumers want fresh fruit, rather than processed.”