The West

Market gardeners fear ruin from imports
Ben Taylor on his family's property in Myalup. Picture: David Bailey

WA growers fear rocketing fruit and vegetable imports will squeeze them out of the industry.

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry figures compiled for _The West Australian _show the value of imported processed fruit and vegetables rose from $71 million in 2010-2011 to $116 million in 2011-2012.

Fresh fruit and vegetable imports into WA increased 19 per cent over the same period.

South West grower Ben Taylor said imports were the biggest issue threatening WA growers, who were being forced to slash prices to compete.

Mr Taylor said high production costs made the price cuts unsustainable.

"It's killing us," he said.

"We are financially stuffed because our returns are not there any more."

The Myalup grower produces vegetables that are sold fresh and processed.

Mr Taylor said some growers had already been forced out of the industry and he predicted his business would go the same way if imports continued to rise.

"I'll be lucky if I have two years left if things don't turn around," he said.

Donnybrook apple and pear grower Steve Dilley said locally produced food would slowly be replaced by imported food until there was none or little local produce left on supermarket shelves.

"Until consumers go into supermarkets and find the shelves empty because the imported stuff didn't arrive and there's no local produce, it will continue to go on as is," he said.

AUSVEG spokesman Hugh Gurney said overseas growers were able to produce more cheaply than Australian growers because costs, such as wages, were lower.

Vegetables WA executive officer Jim Turley said processed fruit and vegetable imports, which include canned fruit and frozen vegetables, were threatening the viability of WA growers.

"We are appealing to consumers to stick by their local growers because if they don't, we won't be here in 10 years," Mr Turley said.

New Zealand is the major source of Australia's food imports, followed by the US and China.

The West Australian

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