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Call for King Valley to be declared disaster zone

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MP calls for disaster zone
BY DI THOMAS and AAP

THE Victorian Government should declare the King Valley a disaster zone in the wake of a devastating frost which struck the region’s winegrape growers this week, member for Indi Sophie Mirabella said yesterday.

Mrs Mirabella visited vineyards yesterday to get a first hand briefing on the damage from growers, including Dal Zotto’s Otto Dal Zotto.

“This was a situation where no one was prepared for the frost. It was totally unexpected,” she said.

Mrs Mirabella said it had been estimated that 90 per cent of the white wine grape vines had been damaged and most of the region’s red varieties.

However, she said the full extent of the damage would be known in three weeks when growers reassessed the progress of their vines.

Some of the growers affected had also planted tobacco and were doubly affected in the wake of proposed changes to that industry, she said.

“These people are not just growers, they are also winemakers and the effect on economic value is worse,” she said.

“I have written to Agriculture Minister Bob Cameron, asking that the Government declare the region a natural disaster zone.

“By doing so they will trigger the formula for the provision of Federal Government assistance to these growers.

“One of the things that assistance includes is concessional interest rates for growers.”

Meanwhile the Victorian Government has announced a $4.9 million package to support the farmers in the Goulburn Valley whose fruit crops were also struck by this week’s frost.

About 450 fruit growers lost an estimated $80 million worth of fruit after temperatures fell to below zero on Monday morning.

The rescue package, announced by Premier Steve Bracks, Treasurer John Brumby and Mr Cameron, includes business interest rate subsidies for eligible farmers once the Federal Government declares that Exceptional Circumstances requirements have been met.

This will include $4.3 million to fund Goulburn-Murray Water’s pumping of water in Warranga Basin, to reduce costs for farmers; $350,000 for financial counselling for Goulburn Valley businesses and further local council rate subsidies.

Farmers in the region are now pulling together data to show the damage caused by Monday’s frost and this will form part of the case for an EC ruling.

Orchardist Andrew Prentice from East Shepparton said the frosts will mean no income for growers for 18 months.

Sophie Mirabella examines frost damaged vines with Otto Dal Zotto in the King Valley.


Sykes in push for more aid
BY DI THOMAS

NO natural disaster determination would be made for wine grape growers in the North East, member for Benalla Bill Sykes said yesterday. – full story…


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Written by Greg Naylor

29 September 2006 at 6:44 pm

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