ONE of the major banks has shown its support for the strawberry industry by offering a financial assistance package.
ANZ today announced a package for customers affected by the fruit contamination crisis impacting fruit growers across Australia.
As part of its assistance package, ANZ offers to:
- suspend repayments on loans, including credit cards, for up to three months (which includes interest capitalisation)
- waiving fees associated with restructuring business loans considered necessary
- restructuring finances or applying for new home or personal loans without incurring the usual application fees
- provide temporary adjustments to existing lending limits, including credit cards, to assist with unexpected costs
- accessing term deposits early without incurring any fees for impacted customers
- waive life insurance premiums for up to three months for eligible customers of ANZ
ANZ head of agribusiness, Mark Bennett, said ANZ was extremely saddened to hear how difficult things have been for some fruit growers over the past week as they have been forced to dispose of perfectly good crops due to the deliberate and callous contamination of a tiny amount of fruit.
“We remain committed to all our fruit growers and hope that in some small way this support package will help our customers who have been impacted by this crisis,” Mr Bennett said.
ANZ encourages customers impacted to contact their agribusiness manager so they can provide support and work with them on the best possible solutions to meet their needs.
Customers who require assistance can visit an ANZ branch, speak to their agribusiness manager or contact ANZ’s dedicated hardship team on 1800 351 548 or visit www.anz.com/hardship
Meanwhile, business advisory firm, Pitcher Partners, says fruit growers and horticulturalists across sectors should look at the needle-in-strawberry crisis as a wake-up call to check their risk profiles.
The firm warns of dire consequences even for growers with insurance.
Pitcher Partners business advisory partner, Mark Harrison, said Australia’s $500 million strawberry sector was experiencing the kind of crisis many businesses would not think to plan for, with an overnight collapse in their markets.
They invest, they invest, they invest — and then they sell whatever they've grown to pay back their investment first and then hopefully make some profit.- Mark Harrison, Pitcher Partners
The impact would mean a shortage of cash flow and job losses, depending on the way growers had structured their business.
“It depends on who these growers are. Some of them are diversified and don't only grow strawberries, that might be half their business or it might be a third,” Mr Harrison said.
“But if all of their business is in strawberries and they're being recalled then they have clearly got more significant issues than others who might grow under multiple brands or where they might grow under hothouses, so you get effectively more than one maturing crop.”
For many smaller growers, though, the impact will be devastating.
“They invest, they invest, they invest — and then they sell whatever they've grown to pay back their investment first and then hopefully make some profit,” Mr Harrison said.
“If that's not there, then that's the downside of all your growing costs. A bad harvest would have a similar impact, but clearly in most trigger events you would see it coming a lot earlier unless it is hail the night before you pick.”
Mr Harrison said for crops with a short fresh life there are few options.
“The problem is that there's no ready infrastructure near the farms so the crop will still spoil by the time you need to pack it up, send it off and freeze and dry or whatever you're going to do,” he said.
“The infrastructure is not set up to do that in bulk or on demand.
“The other question would be whether anyone would buy that product anyway. You're going to invest all those additional costs into a fruit that no one wants when it's fresh —are they going to want it when you reposition it in some other format? You can't pivot that quickly.”