CEO Report |
Date: 3 December 2013
It was a particularly difficult year for the company. A combination of excessive heat in the Riverland and issues with Carbonates in the water in the South East meant that yields and quality were severely affected.
In response to this a number of changes have occurred within the company.
Firstly, we have entered into an agreement with W.F. Montague Pty Ltd. Montague is an Australian grower, packer, procurer, logistics provider and marketer of fresh produce. They are a family owned business with direct supply to both Woolworths and Coles. Montague have a national distribution network with distribution centers in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Starting with the upcoming harvest they will oversee (in conjunction with Rivercorp) all our post harvest operations including logistics, cold storage, packing and marketing of Rivercorp’s fruit.
Secondly, I have personally assumed all operational control of both orchards. The previous Operations Manager of Rivercorp has left the company and no replacement will be sought. We have engaged Marcel Veens who is one of the leading apple orchard consultants in Australia. Marcel consults to many of the very best growers in the country. Major orchard management decisions will be made with Marcel’s involvement. To date significant changes to pruning, thinning, tree structure, nutrition, water management, disease and pest control, sunburn control and overall fruit management have been implemented. All with very positive effect. The trees on both orchards are in good condition with strong growth and good fruit numbers. Leaf and fruit size to date is significantly up on the previous year and trees are healthy. We are more than pleased with the positive response in both orchards since Marcel has come on board.
Thirdly, we are in the process of establishing significant amounts of orchard netting at the Riverland orchard. Eight ha of permanent white netting over pink lady trees and 20ha of semi- permanent netting over pink lady and granny smith trees. This netting is only on areas where no overhead sprinklers are installed.
Lastly, we have been approved as a sponsor for the Seasonal Worker Program. At present we have ten Vanuatu nationals working in the orchard and living with us. I could not be more positive about this program and the people we have been lucky enough to bring into Rivercorp. They are hard working, diligent, honest and a great deal of fun to be around. The manger of the Riverland Orchard, Ricki England and his wife Ramona need to take a great deal of the credit for both introducing us to this program and enabling it to be such a pleasant experience for all. I look forward to continuing our association with this program well into the future.
By the time of the AGM we should have started Gala harvest in the Riverland and this crop to date looks excellent. I look forward to providing a further update on orchard performance at that time.
We are optimistic that this next year will be much better than previous with the orchards continuing to develop and looking in good condition.
Permanent trellis release netting over Pink Lady trees
Semi Permanent black netting over Granny Smith Trees
Gala trees post thinning
Fergus McLachlan, CEO