Stonefruit campaign success

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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Stonefruit growers who recently embarked on promotion to encourage consumers to choose WA produce are already enjoying success.

The promotion, which started in December and was funded privately by the growers, aimed to encourage consumers to buy local peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots.

The growers launched the campaign in a desperate bid to increase demand for local stonefruit after suffering low prices as Eastern States' produce flooded the market and pushed prices down.

It means locally-grown produce is now identifiable at most independent grocery stores via a logo advertising "WA Stonefruit - Taste the Difference".

Mercer Mooney wholesale manager Victor Farcic, who initiated the campaign, said although it was too early to quantify the increased demand, he had received strong feedback that consumers were asking independent grocers and major supermarkets for locally-grown stonefruit. He had distributed more than 1000 logos and was confident these were being displayed by independent grocers.

Mr Farcic expected that demand would gather momentum as the campaign proceeded.

The success of the Taste the Difference campaign did not go unnoticed by Premier Colin Barnett, who agreed to meet the stonefruit growers to learn more about their efforts.

Hills growers spokeswoman Roma Spiccia said the growers who met with Mr Barnett were most encouraged by his commitment at a government level to help promote WA grown stonefruit.

Mr Barnett told growers the State Government was keen to encourage campaigns whereby West Australians ate more fruit of all types.

"That is not just to support local producers, but for health reasons as well," he said.

Mr Barnett also asked the growers what government could do to help and was told raising awareness amongst school children, education by the community of safe food and continued exploration of export opportunities would be beneficial.

At the meeting Mr Farcic told Mr Barnett he was working on having fruit distributed to schools in February 2016 in a bid to encourage consumption amongst the younger generation.

"If we deliver nice fruit to children, they will tell their parents who will hopefully put this on their shopping lists. It's another way to raise awareness whilst promoting healthy eating," he said.

Hills grower Mick Padula told Mr Barnett labour shortages and high labour costs were among the challenges faced by orchardists.

Mr Padula said Hills growers did not benefit from 457 (temporary) visa requirements, which aimed to help agricultural shortages by including a requirement for travellers to complete 88 days of specified work in a regional or rural area.

Despite receiving strong interest from visa holders for fruit picking work, growers in the Hills area are not eligible to participate and considered too close to Perth.

Mr Barnett said the Government would speak with the Federal Government about this issue, saying it seemed reasonable that labour-intensive agricultural areas on the outskirts of Perth should qualify.

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