Posted on 08. Jun, 2010 in Victoria

Agriculture Minister Joe Helper has today welcomed a five-year $12 million research program into Victoria’s apple and pear industry.

Speaking from the offices of Apple & Pear Australia Limited (APAL), in North Melbourne, Mr Helper said the apple and pear industry was the third largest horticultural industry in Australia.

“Victoria is the nation’s largest producer of apples and pears,” Mr Helper said.

“In 2007-08 our growers produced 39 per cent of Australia’s apples and 89 per cent of Australia’s pears – worth a gross value of almost $300 million.”

Mr Helper said in 2008 the industry reviewed its approach and looked overseas to research institutions in New Zealand and even Europe to see how they worked and if there were any lessons to be learnt.

“What they found was that their current research efforts needed to be more strategic,” he said.

“The industry then worked together to draw stakeholders, government departments and research organisations together to see how they could work together for the benefit of the industry.

“A cooperative program known as ‘PIPS’ – Productivity, Irrigation, Pests and Soils – was then developed to help address areas of concern.

“PIPS is all about working together – reducing duplication of research, maximising returns on investment, enhancing the breadth of cover and cooperation and attracting and retaining research resources.

“The projects within the program are designed to assist the apple and pear industries to become more productive and competitive.

“One of the really exciting things about this program is the cooperation and collaboration developing between countries and between states within Australia.

“The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited (PFR) for example brings skills, resources and current research development to the program that are not currently available in Australia.”

Mr Helper said for farmers, PIPS would help increase the profitability of orchards, minimise water use and minimise the use of agricultural chemicals.

The project includes researchers from the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI), Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research (TIAR), Queensland’s Department of Employment, Economic Development & Innovation (DEEDI) and The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited (PFR).  Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) is funding $7.5 million of the program using the apple and pear levy.

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