Press Conference

Damian Drum: Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen for being here this morning. It's an incredible honour to host the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia Michael McCormack here, to Jeftomson to announce the co-investment from the Australian Government and the FRUITCo co-operative with a $15 million injection into a new packhouse sorting facility right here in the Goulburn Valley. As we all understand the Goulburn Valley is one of the leading, if not the leading region in Australia for apple and pear production, along with a whole range of other fruits as well including tomatoes. And the difference between wisdom and knowledge is that if you're very, very smart you understand that a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom will tell you not to put it into a fruit salad.

This co-investment is something that's been long needed by the fruit industry. We are very, very competitive when it comes to all of our farming practices, very competitive when it comes to picking our fruit. We lose against some of our competitor nations on the world market when it comes to our sorting and our packhouse abilities. This investment, predominantly by Jeftomson, is going to see Australia and the Goulburn Valley bridge that gap. And it's great that the Federal Government has been able to find this $15 million investment to co-invest with the Goulburn Valley and the horticultural industry and we are very, very confident this is going to be an incredible shot in the arm, a real boost for the orchardists in the Goulburn Valley.

We all understand how important it is not just for the farmers on the land, but also with the flow-on industries associated with fruit right here in Shepparton. So with that, I'd like to hand over now to Michael and to let him take you through the process that led to, from meetings in Canberra onto other meetings in Canberra and more meetings in Canberra, to fantastic representation from Gary and from Peter to make sure that the Government is fully aware of just how important this project is going to be to the future of fruit and horticulture in the Goulburn Valley. So Michael.

Michael McCormack: Thank you Damian. The Goulburn Valley has needed this commitment, this investment for years. Damian Drum has delivered and I know how excited the local Mayor is as well. Shepparton has really been crying out for this sort of investment, this sort of commitment and as I say again, Damian Drum has been a champion of this. He's worn the carpet out into my office making sure that I knew just how important it was. Of course, FRUITCo Jeftomson people also lobbied hard for this. We saw that this was good investment. We saw that this was going to generate hundreds of jobs, many, many jobs in the construction phase, but indeed, following on from the completion of the construction, when the packing house facility is up and running, the efficiencies, the productivity that is going to be gained from this investment is going to be quite remarkable. It's going to be transformational and I know how exciting this is going to be for the local area, for the Goulburn Valley.

I come from an irrigation district and I know how hard these communities have done it in recent years, but this is going to mean such a difference for the orchardists, it's going to mean such a difference for this company, it's going to mean such a difference for everybody involved. But also it's going to make such a difference for the cafes, for the schools, for the entire local community because when you grow local communities, you grow local jobs, you grow community capacity. This is a fantastic announcement—$15 million is going to potentially yield more than $50 million in additional exports and $50 million in additional arrangements through export opportunities. That's why we work so hard to make sure that we have the right export opportunities and Damian and my colleagues, Minister for Trade Simon Birmingham and Mark Coulton—the Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment—are forever looking overseas for more export opportunities. And when we've got the world's best pears and apples and other produce being produced right out of the Goulburn Valley, being produced right out of Victoria, we need more export opportunities and we need better efficiencies. As Damian has said, we grow the best fruit, we grow the best vegetables, we grow the best produce. But when it comes to the packing house facilities, sometimes that's where we lose efficiencies. That's where we lose our export opportunities as far as being able to do them in an efficient way and this is going to be transforming just that. It's going to make it more viable, it's going to make it greater efficiency-wise and the productivity will increase. The job numbers will increase, the export opportunities will increase and everybody in the local area will benefit from it.

So Damian Drum has done an outstanding job in campaigning for this, in making sure that I realised just what an important investment it is and I look forward very much to seeing the first sod turned, very much to seeing the packing house being built and very much to seeing the packing house completed, the efficiencies gained and the jobs being created. It's fantastic.


Damian Drum: Okay. Now, happy to have questions.

Journalist: Any idea when the packing house will be up and running?

Damian Drum: We can throw to Pete for that answer.

Peter Thompson: Yes. We hope to place orders imminently, and we hope to be able to have our first deliveries probably mid next year, late next year and hopefully be running for 2021.

Journalist: So how big is the investment in total and what's the Government input?

Unidentified speaker: The Government input's $15 million, it's probably about $55 million all up.